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Gracie Lee

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Paintings by John Turnbull Thomson, poems in Jawi script, an early 19th-century map of Asia and a Russian traveller’s tale of Singapore are some of the paper artefacts featured in the National Library’s latest exhibition, “On Paper: Singapore Before 1867”. J.T. Thomson’s Paintings John Turnbull Thomson is best known for his role as Government Surveyor of the Straits Settlements as well as his design and engineering work on several key early buildings in Singapore. What is less well known is that Thomson, a self-trained artist, also made invaluable contributions to the pictorial documentation of Singapore through his paintings. The four vibrant watercolour works featured here, which exemplify Thomson’s unique artistic approach and style, vividly capture the state of Singapore’s built landscape in the mid-1840s. They also reflect the cultural diversity of the communities and people who made their home on the island. The 1847 painting, “Chinese Temple to the…