Lot 033

b. China, 1906 - d. Singapore, 1991


Signed with Chinese seal (upper left)
Ink and colour on rice paper
33cm x 43cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur.

ESTIMATE  RM 20,000 - 30,000

Chen Wen Hsi was known for his alluring rendering of nature through the medium he loved most - Chinese ink. He was fond of painting animals namely ducks, squirrels, and various species of birds like pelicans, flamingos and storks. Gibbons is one of the famed themes for the artist and this particular piece depicts a pair of gibbons in a playful mode. Early Chinese writers viewed the gibbons as noble, gracefully moving high in the treetops, as the ‘gentlemen’ of the forests, in contrast to the greedy macaques, attracted by human food. The Taoists ascribed occult properties to gibbons, believing them to be able to live a several hundred years and to turn into humans.

The highly regarded painter and art educator received his formal art schooling from the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts (1928) and then enrolled at Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts (1932) in Shanghai, during which he was exposed to both traditional Chinese painting as well as Western art. His tutelage under the great Pan Tian Shou and Zhu Wen Yun had given him a solid foundation although he also benefited from the sense of Western perspective under the training of Tan Hemu and Ni Yide.
Chen Wen Hsi was an artist and one of the finest finger-painters, an academician and a gallerist (1976 to 1985). He arrived in Singapore in 1949 and taught at the Chinese High School for 20 years and at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1951 to 1959. The legendary trip to Java and Bali with Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee in 1952 resulted in the development of the Nanyang style. He was awarded Singapore’s Public Service Star for his educationist zeal and role in advancing Chinese ink painting in 1964. Wen Hsi’s life-time accomplishment was recognised posthumously with the Meritorious Service Medal awarded by the government of Singapore in 1992 in conjunction with the National Day Honours Award. His other accolades included the Asean Cultural and Communications Award in 1987 and the Taiwan National Museum’s Gold medal in 1980. In 1975, the National University of Singapore awarded him an honorary degree and he was honoured with a Retrospective exhibition in 1982.

Convergences: Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition, Singapore Art Museum, 2006.