Lot 099

b. China, 1912 - d. Singapore, 1979


Signed 'CHLim' (lower right)
Watercolour on paper
36.5cm x 51cm

Private Collection, Penang.

Lim Cheng Hoe Retrospective 1986,
National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore, 1986,
illustrated on page 67.

ESTIMATE  RM 18,000 - 30,000

This is a classic piece of plein air watercolour with the balance between the wet-on-wet and the transparent washes all tweaked on a taut pictorial bubble: the sky with its friendly boughs of white, the water’s edge in the foreground, the earth mound and short shore-line, and the distant mountains like forgotten sentinels. The only human blot to the expansive yet intimate landscape is an idling sampan, with bow pointed towards viewer in the shallow waters of the inlet and with another on shore a little away. Soft light plays magic on the languid waters, the reflections of the mound on the right optically diminishing the triangle block. Trees on a small ledge depicted on a small plot on the left provide another freshener.

Lim Cheng Hoe is best known as a watercolourist, the only Singapore first generation art pioneer painting almost exclusively in that medium. He was also the only one selftaught and schooled only in Western art, with the rest having their tutelage in the best of Chinese ink and brush tradition. He picked up the finer points from informal and irregular Saturday classes under Richard Walker, his secondary-school art teacher at Raffles Institution and who was the first Art Inspector of Schools in Singapore, even after he left school from 1932 to 1935. When young, he already showed promise and was awarded the Lim Boon Keng Gold Medal in 1927 and the Best Work in Design and Painting Class in School in October 1930. His parents had migrated to Singapore from Amoy in China in 1919, when he was only seven. He went outdoors to paint during weekends as he was working in the Singapore Public Utilities Board until 1966, when he retired as chief clerk. He was a founding member of the Singapore Watercolour Society (SWS) in 1969 together with Gog Sing Hooi, Chen Chong Swee and Loy Chye Chuan. SWS originated from a loose and small group of ‘amateur’ artists known as the Sunday Painters who regularly met either at Cheng Hoe’s house in Amoy Street, a café (Red House) at Bras Basah or a specified spot on the Singapore River banks. In 1968, Cheng Hoe was awarded the Singapore National Day Long Service Medal. In 1988, the SWS organised a posthumous exhibition for him.