Georgette Chen


Georgette Chen, neé Chang Li Ying, was a Singaporean artist most well-known for her still-life and figure/landscape portraits in oil. She also worked with other mediums such as watercolour and pastels. Chen’s official recognition as a Pioneer Singapore Artist and her being awarded the Cultural Medallion for Fine Art in 1982 testify to her centrality in the development of Singaporean fine art. Chen was born on 1906 in Zhejiang Province, China (erstwhile erroneously assumed to be Paris, France until clarified by Jane Chia through the retrieval of her marriage certificate) and passed away in Singapore on 1993. Her representative works include East Coast Vendor (1961), Self Portrait (c1946), Still Life: Moon Festival Table (c1965) (along with its multiple incarnations), and Lotus in a Breeze (1970), amongst others.


Georgette Chen, Self-PortraitGeorgette Chen, Self-Portrait (1946).
Original work © Georgette Chen, 1946; Digital copy © National Library Board, 2008.
Retrieved from PictureSG.C

Chen is affiliated with the home-grown ‘Nanyang Art’ movement, retroactively coined by historians Redza Piyadasa and T. K. Sabapathy in 1979, that is characterized in part by a representation of regional and local subject matter via a series of formal aesthetic codes and techniques that synthesize Western and Chinese artistic traditions. At the same time, Chen was also a distinctive case with respect to the Nanyang Art faction—while the rest of her colleagues/ contemporaries, such as Cheong Soo Pieng and Liu Kang, were Chinese émigrés who arrived in Singapore in the 1940s from a war-ravaged China, Chen was primarily educated in Euro-American fine art institutions, from the Art Students League of New York to the Académie Colarossi, and relocated to Singapore by way of Paris, France and Penang, Malaysia a decade later in 1953–54.

Indeed, being born into money, Chen experienced a cosmopolitan and transcontinental childhood and life, traversing nations such as China, France, and the United States for much of her life.

Consequently, her works have been mounted at exhibitions in such diverse locations. For instance, they have been multiply showcased in Paris at various points in her career; her debut featuring a nude study and a painting of the Seine were accepted for exhibition. Subsequently, she has had solo exhibitions in places such as Shanghai (the Metropole Hotel, 1943) and New York (the Asia Institute, 1949). Her first solo exhibition in Singapore was in 1953 at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Chen moved to Singapore permanently from Penang, Malaysia following the dissolution of her second marriage around 1953, and began part-time teaching in fine art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1954; she was heavily involved in Singaporean artistic circles and life at NAFA from the inception of her tenure at the institution. Her nom de plume, Chendana (Malay for sandalwood, a tree native to tropical Southeast Asia), articulates her sense of attachment to her adopted homeland. She acquired Singaporean citizenship upon Singapore’s separation and independence from Malaysia in 1965.

In recognition of her efforts and achievements toward the enrichment/maturation of the Singaporean art scene, Chen was awarded the prestigious Cultural Medallion (Fine Art) in 1982. A retrospective exhibition was held in her honour at the National Museum in 1985, wherein over 170 of her works were mounted. Chen passed away in 1993 at the Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore. 53 of her works were donated to the National Museum, and today, her works are exhibited in major collections such as the Singapore Art Museum and the National Gallery. Chen’s legacy in the Singaporean cultural imaginary is further evidenced in the multiple creative works inspired by her—playwright Ng Yi-Sheng’s musical, Georgette, staged for the 2007 edition of the Singaporean Arts Festival by Musical Theatre Limited; illustrator Sonny Liew’s Chen-inspired graphic novel published in 2014; and the National Gallery-commissioned series of docudramas on her in 2015.

Search Terms Call Number
The Arts 700
The Arts: History, Biography 709
Painting & Paintings 750
Paintings: History, Biography 759

Books, Book Chapters, and Exhibition Catalogues

(listed in alphabetical order)


  • Chia, J. (1997). Georgette Chen. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum.
    Call no.: RSING q759.95957 CHI
    Arguably the most detailed and comprehensive biographical account of Chen’s artistic career and life from childhood to death to date; it incorporates multiple sources, many of which, from photographs and personal correspondences, are reprinted in the book. Chia discovers that Chen was probably born in Zhejiang, China, instead of Paris as previously and popularly assumed. Also includes a compilation catalogue of Chen’s major exhibitions between 1963 and 1994 as well as secondary material such as radio transcripts on her first husband’s death.


  • Chia, W. H. (2002). Bits and pieces: Writings on art. Sabapathy, T. K. (Ed.). Singapore: Contemporary Asian Arts Centre.
    Call no.: RSING 709.5957 CHI
    A consolidation of prose essays, reviews, papers, and the like by Singaporean artist and art educator Chia Wai Hon. Chen is cursorily mentioned in three pieces: “21st annual exhibition of works by local artists,” “Traditional aesthetics in the visual arts: The Singapore story,” and “Post-independence art in Singapore (1950–84),” where she is recognised as part of the Nanyang Artists faction.


  • Dysart, D. & Fink, H. (Eds.). (1996). Asian women artists. Roseville East, New South Wales: Craftsman House (in association with G+B Arts International).
    Call no.: RART 700.920825 ASI
    This edited volume of essays constitutes a larger feminist politics that endeavours to retrieve and recuperate Asian women artists from their historically and persistently marginal(ised) position in art history and art criticism. Chen is mentioned alongside Chng Seok Tin and Han Sai Por in Jane Chia’s essay, “Trouble at hand,” on Singaporean women artists; colour reproductions of Chen’s Portrait of Eugene Chen (c1935) and Mooncakes with Green Pomelo (c1965) are included.


  • Eng-Lee, S. C. et al. (1987). Treasures from the National Museum Singapore. Singapore: Author.
    Call no.: RSING 708.95957 TRE
    Chen’s East Coast Vendor (1961), reproduced in colour here, is listed as an acquisition under the National Museum’s (relatively modest) modern art collection. The accompanying caption identifies this work as exemplifying a turning point in Chen’s artistic direction, in part due to her cognizance of the tropical conditions of her new residence in Singapore and its implications on optic dimensions.


  • The Esplanade Co Ltd. (2002). Esplanade Theatres on the Bay: Visual arts opening festival. Singapore: Author.
    Call no.: RSING q709.5957 ESP
    Commissioned to commemorate the Esplanade’s opening on 12 October 2002 and its visual arts programme. Chia Wai Hon’s essay, “Singapore River—Ever changing and unchanging,” examines visual/paint representations of the titular landmark, such as Chen’s Singapore Waterfront (1963) and Boats and Old Houses (c1963–1965) which are reproduced in colour here. Chen—along with other artists like Cheong Soo Pieng—is recognised as a pioneer artist who deployed the river as a point of departure to generate new aesthetic motifs and sensibilities.


  • Foo, A. & Lee, K. (2009). Georgette’s mooncakes. Singapore: Ethos Books.
    Call no.: JRSING 428.6 FOO
    A children’s illustrated book that uses Chen’s oil painting, Still Life: Moon Festival Table (c1965-68), as a point of entry to creatively induct children into aspects of Singaporean heritage such as the Mid-autumn Festival, observed by the Chinese community, and Peranakan culture. Includes a short three-column introduction to Chen, as well as four plates featuring her works at the end of the narrative.


  • Kwok, K. C. (1996). Channels & confluences: A history of Singapore art. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, National Heritage Board.
    Call no.: RSING 709.5957 KWO
    Explicates the origins of Chen’s nom de plume, Chendana, beyond a brief biography, as rehearsed in many other sources. Noteworthy also for its detailed and formal evaluation/elaboration of five of Chen’s artworks, reproduced in full color here—Self-Portrait (1946), Still Life with Cut Apple and Orange (c1928-30), Mosque in Kuala Lumpur (1957), Singapore Waterfront (1958), and Still Life: Moon Festival Table (c1965-68).


  • Kwok, K. C. (2000). Georgette Chen: Sensitive yet detached. In Willie, V. (Ed.), 12 ASEAN artists. Kuala Lumpur: Balai Seni Lukis Negara.
    Call no.: RSING q759.959 TWE
    A later version of the same essay by Kwok as in the previous entry (see above). Full-page colour reproductions of Chen’s Family Portrait (1960–65), Still Life with Salted Eggs (c1954), Mother & Child (c1960), Mother & Child (c1960) (different from the previous), and Malay Lady (c1960) are included, as are smaller reproductions of five other works.


  • Liew, S. (2014). Warm nights, deathless days: The life of Georgette Chen. Singapore: National Gallery Singapore.
    Call no.: RSING 741.595957 LIE
    A short creative biography of Georgette Chen’s life dramatized via the graphic novel tradition by Singapore-based comic artist and illustrator Sonny Liew.


  • Liu, K. & Ho, Y. (2005). Re-connecting: Selected writings on Singapore art and art criticism. Sabapathy, T. K. & Cheo, C.-H. (Eds.). Cheo, C.-H. (Trans.). Singapore: Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore.
    Call no.: RSING 709.59570904 LIU
    Includes multiple separate references to Chen, such as local painter Liu Kang’s 1953 two-page essay, “The art of Georgette Chen,” on his impressions of Chen at their debut meeting in Paris, an appraisal of her tentative ventures into pottery, and a reproduction of her Portrait of Eugene Chen (1940). Elsewhere, Liu evaluates Chen’s painting techniques in “Nurturing new life in the gravel bed of the river” while Ho Ho Ying articulates a more critical assessment of Chen’s body of work and its allegedly impressionist dimensions in “The current art scene in Singapore (1960’s).”


  • Low, S. W. & Teo, H. W. (2002). Early modern art. In Kwok, K. W., Mahizhnan, A., & Sasitharan, T. (Eds.), Selves: The state of the arts in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council.
    Call no.: RSING q700.95957 SEL
    A National Arts Council-commissioned project to take stock of and celebrate Singapore’s cultural and artistic landmarks at the turn of the millennium. Chen is briefly mentioned in Low and Teo’s essay on the Nanyang School’s centrality to pre-modern Singaporean art with reference to her Parisian education, preferred mediums, and subject matter.


  • Musical Theatre Limited, Singapore. (2007). Georgette, the musical. Singapore: Author.
    Call no.: RSING 792.642095957 GEO
    Programme for Georgette, the musical, based on and inspired by the life of Chen—presented by Musical Theatre Limited in collaboration with the Esplanade Theatres for the 2007 edition of the Singapore Arts Festival. The musical was written by Ng Yi-sheng, directed by Lee Yew Moon, executively produced by Stella Kon, and starred Seong Hui Xuan as the eponymous character.


  • National Museum of Singapore & Ministry of Community Development. (1985). Georgette Chen retrospective, 1985. Singapore: National Museum of Singapore.
    Call no.: RSEA 759.95957 CHE.G
    Published in connection to the 1985 retrospective exhibition on Chen, which displayed over 170 of her works. Contains a biographical timeline, a reading of her works and artistic development, divided into three periods, in relation to her life, a guide to assessing her oeuvre, and a catalogue of her works. In particular, this work calls attention to the cosmopolitan character of both artist and work that is often overlooked. (N.B.: A ‘retrospective’ indicates an exhibition that presents a particular artist’s body of work produced within an extended period of time in art terminology.)



  • Sabapathy, T. K. (Ed.). (1998). Ng Eng Teng: Art and thoughts. Singapore: NUS Museum.
    Call no.: RSING 730.95957 NGE
    Contains a few photographs of Chen in addition to Ng Eng Teng’s documentation of his impressions and interactions of her (Ng was a student of Chen at NAFA).


  • Singapore Art Museum (1998). Imaging selves: Singapore Art Museum (Collection exhibition series, 1998–1999). Singapore: Author.
    Call no.: RSING 759.95 IMA
    Companion piece to the 1998 yearlong Imaging Selves exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum. Eight of Chen’s works were mounted at the showing, of which three plates—Portrait of Eugene Chen (1935–38), Portrait of Eugene Chen (1940), and Portrait of Eugene Chen (undated)—are included in this text. Also featured is a two-paragraph summary of Chen’s life and career, and especially the ways in which her first husband Eugene Chen informed and shaped both.


  • Singapore Art Museum. (1998). IMPRINTS on Singapore art: Works of 40 NAFA artists. Singapore: Author.
    Call no.: RSING q709.5957 IMP
    A companion text to the similarly-titled exhibition featuring 48 works by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts-affiliated (NAFA) artists now housed at the Singapore Art Museum; the exhibition commemorates the NAFA’s 60th anniversary in 1998. Chen, who taught at NAFA, is recognised as a prolific pre-war artistic pioneer who inspired the careers of future women artists in Singapore. Three of her works were mounted at the exhibition, and are accordingly catalogued in the book’s list of exhibited works.


  • Singapore Art Museum and National Art Museum of China (2006). Encounters: Southeast Asian art in Singapore Art Museum Collection. Singapore; Beijing: Authors.
    Call no.: RSING 759.9590904 ENC
    Bilingual (English and Chinese) exhibition catalogue produced to complement the traveling Encounters: Southeast Asian Art in Singapore Art Museum Collection exhibition that was held at the National Art Museum of China in 2006. Three of Chen’s works were showcased and are catalogued accordingly here in full colour, along with a brief introduction. She is also mentioned as part of the Nanyang Artists circle in Kwok Kian Chow’s curatorial essay.


  • Tan, B. T. & Ng, S. (2015). Lives of the artists, a Singapore story: The Cultural Medallion and visual arts, 1979–2015. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Commissioned by the National Arts Council and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Communication, and Youth).
    Call no.: RSING 709.5957 TAN
    A volume that recognises recipients of the prestigious Cultural Medallion and hence, a means to chart the trajectory and take stock of Singapore’s cultural and artistic trajectory to date. Identifies Chen, who received the award in 1982, as an artist interested in the dichotomy between relativism/particularism and universalism in art; a short sub-chapter on her includes a brief biography, a consideration of her aesthetic sensibilities, and some reproductions of her works, from Coast of Brittany (c1930) to Punjabi Man (1971).


  • Toshiko, R. (Ed.). (2002). Nanyang 1950–65: Passage to Singaporean art. Fukuoka: Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.
    Call no.: RSING 759.95957 NAN
    Chen’s East Coast Vendor (c1961) is reproduced on page 18; the corresponding caption elects her work as a means to extrapolate into and consider the representations of the ‘ethnic(ized)’ Other and the dialectic of selfhood and Other-ing as the predominantly Chinese-Singaporean Nanyang artists aspired toward the expression of a regional identity through their art. A condensed summary of Chen’s life and career appears on pp. 38.


  • Xia, S. (2000). Nanyang spirit: Chinese migration and the development of Southeast Asian art. Chia, T. T. (Trans.). In Singapore Art Museum, Visions and enchantment: Southeast Asian painting (pp. 18–21). Singapore: Singapore Art Museum (in association with Christie’s International Singapore).
    Call no.: RSING q759.959 VIS
    Xia’s essay, published in this catalogue produced in conjunction with the similarly-titled Singapore Art Museum exhibition in 2000, locates the historical, cultural, and political circumstances in which Nanyang Art germinated and charts its development hereafter. Chen is recognised as an active member of the movement in question, and her Lotus in a Breeze (c1970), which was mounted at the exhibition; appears on p.180–1 under the section ‘Figures and spaces.’ (N.B.: The accompanying caption to the plate erroneously lists Chen’s year of passing as 1981.)


Newspaper Articles

(listed in alphabetical order)


  • A boost for fine arts. (1996, November 29). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Broadcasts the dissemination of five scholarships at NAFA derived from Georgette Chen Arts Scholarship scheme maintained by the National Arts Council, which is sponsored by the estate of Chen.


  • Ang, M. (1994, November 15). $350,000 gift for women’s group. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on a $350,000 donation to the Council of Women’s Organisations from Chen’s estate.


  • Beginner’s guide to the Nanyang school of art. (2006, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Briefly introduces the history and characteristics of the Nanyang artistic movement and recognises Chen as a key practitioner of the style.


  • Bhalla, S. T. (1994, June 14). Chen’s legacy to Singapore Art Museum worth $2m. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports that the 53 works by Chen found and donated to the Singapore Art Museum upon her death is estimated to be worth circa S$2 million and affirms that funds acquired from the sale of her home will be channelled toward a scholarship fund for art students and other charitable causes.


  • Ho, J. (1997, April 5). Old age fears spurred her to paint more. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Relates Chen’s career to her life in general, such as how her post-retirement financial concerns motivated her artistic production in later years. Reports on the 1997 retrospective exhibition on Chen, including the 112 works and personal effects on display.


  • Kan, G. (1994, June 14). Georgette Chen works donated to art museum. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Announces the donation of some 53 works by Chen, which were found in her home after her death by the executor of her estate, to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), thus bringing up its collection of Chen’s works to 104.


  • Leong, W. K. (1996, April 13). A $100,000 fake? Georgette Chen’s spirit is missing, says expert. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on the suspect authenticity of an allegedly Chen work, Peking Scene, put up for auction by art auctioneer Christie’s, which prompted its withdrawal. The discrepancies between the work in question and the one displayed at Chen’s 1985 retrospective exhibition are noted, and Chen’s NAFA colleague Tan Tee Chie declares that it is not characteristic of Chen to paint two of the same works.


  • Leong, W. K. (1994, March 30). Collectors pay record prices for Singapore works. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Documents the new record prices that Singaporean artworks fetched at two recent auctions, including Chen’s Easter Lilies (undated), which sold for S$74,750—the highest price set for a Singaporean piece to date.


  • Leong, W. K. (1996, May 8). Other Georgette Chen painting found. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Announces the discovery of a likewise-indeterminate Chen work similar to that of the Peking Scene that was withdrawn from auction earlier due to doubts over its authenticity (see the Leong entry above dated April 13, 1996).


  • Lim, C. (1985, November 10). A lifelong passion for everyday objects. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    An in-depth evaluation of Chen’s aesthetic persuasions and recalibration of European (Post-)Impressionist art in both form and content—the everyday article and artefact. Includes an appreciation of certain pieces across her career, from Oysters and Wine (c1930s) and Coconuts and Chillies (1973) to chart her artistic development.


  • Lim, Y. (1994, November 10). For peace and art. The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on a S$500,000 donation from Chen’s estate to the Muslim Missionary Society (Jamiyah).


  • Munroe, B. (1997, April 12). Captivating portrait of a pioneer. The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reviews Jane Chia’s curated 1997 retrospective exhibition on Chen at the Singapore Art Museum and her accompanying biography published in conjunction with the exhibition (see entry under ‘Books, book chapters, and exhibition catalogues’ above). Includes cursory appraisals of a few of Chen’s works on display at the exhibition.


  • Munroe, B. (1997, April 12). Two artists of influence at SAM. The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Broadcasts Chen’s exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, along with Shi Xiangtuo’s, both of whom are NAFA-affiliated ‘Nanyang artists.’ Calls attention to the marginalisation of Chen as a woman artist in the male-dominated Singaporean art scene with its patriarchal dimensions.


  • National Art Gallery to open in 2013. (2006, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Announces the prospective opening of the National Gallery and its acquisition/display of 4,000 works by pioneers in Singaporean artistic circles, such as Chen.


  • Pioneer S’pore artist dies. (1993, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on Chen’s death at age 86 from rheumatoid arthritis. Hails her as a pioneer in the Singaporean art scene and as an instrumental member in Nanyang-style painting.


  • Rasul, J. J. (2007, June 8). Portrait as an artist as a young woman. Today (Singapore), p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on Ng Yi-Sheng’s musical, Georgette, for the 2007 edition of the Singapore Arts Festival’s Five Foot Broadway musical fringe festival prior to its showing. Includes quotes from Ng.


  • Sabapathy, T. K. (1985, November 8). Everyday world of experience and senses. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Reports on Chen’s 1985 retrospective exhibition at the National Museum Art Gallery at length. Includes a biographical timeline and a brief but concise appraisal of her oeuvre in terms of her artistic sensibilities, her preferences in genre and subject material.


  • Sabapathy, T. K. (1993, March 19). First lady of art. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    A tribute to Chen following her death recognising her artistic achievements, her life, and her career as both fine-art painter and mentor.


  • Stamps to feature works of four artists. (1992, February 18). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Broadcasts a special stamp issue by the Singapore Philatelic Bureau featuring works by four prominent local artists to be released on 11 March 1992, including Chen’s Singapore Waterfront (1958).


  • Teacher who turned geese into swans. (1993, April 2). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. Tribute to Chen, who passed on recently, by former student Patricia Kennison, who commemorated her nurturing, encouraging, and engaging personality.


  • Through Georgette’s eyes. (1985, November 8). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Advertises the National Museum Art Galley’s retrospective exhibition on Chen in honour and recognition of her status as a Pioneer Artist and as one of the rare women artists in Singapore.


  • Top draw: First-generation artists. (2006, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Introduces several pioneer Singaporean artists, of which Chen is one, in the form of blurbs; Peking Scene (c1934–1948) is reproduced here.



  • 50 years of artist’s work on show. (1985, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Briefly reports on the 1985 retrospective on Chen, including the guest-of-honour and opening dates.



(listed in alphabetical order)


  • Chia, J. (1999, Autumn). Georgette Chen (1906-1993), a Pioneer Artist. Feminist Studies, 25(3), 670-677. Retrieved March 7, 2016, from EBSCO Art Source.
    Chia’s essay recuperates Chen as a feminist figure of empowerment in a time when the art world was (and still is) male-dominated insofar as women were marginalized by the inimical conditions that impeded them from practicing art professionally. In the elaboration of her project, Chia also considers the recurring motifs, subject material, and formal strategies characteristic of Chen’s oeuvre.


  • Huang, L. (2015, November 24). National Gallery Singapore opening; What to see: 10 works not to be missed. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Listicle on key works housed at the newly-opened National Gallery Singapore, includes Chen’s Still-life with Cut Apple and Orange (1928–1930).


  • Kok, C. (2007, June 11). Homegrown musical with great potential. The Business Times (Singapore). Retrieved from Factiva.
    Affirmative review of Georgette, the musical staged by Musical Theatre Limited for the Singapore Arts Festival 2007.


  • Koh, N. (2010, July 30). Remembering Singapore master artists. The Business Times (Singapore). Retrieved from Factiva.
    Announces a new exhibition of 40 works that commemorates 18 canonical Singaporean artists, including Chen, at SBin Art Plus on the Ministry of Communication, Information, and the Arts’s grounds.


  • Lau, J. (2015, December 9). In Singapore, a new vision; The National Gallery traces the evolution of Southeast Asian art. International New York Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Chronicles the genesis and development of the National Gallery Singapore as a means to archive and collect Southeast Asian art. Notes in particular Chen’s Self-Portrait (c1946), as a confirmation that Singaporean/regional art was inherently cosmopolitan and transnational in orientation earlier than commonly assumed.


  • Low, Y. (2015, October 1). Becoming professional artists in postwar Singapore and Malaysia: Developments in art during a time of political transition. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 46(3). Retrieved March 7, 2016, from Factiva.
    This paper considers the implications of socio-economic, historical, and political conditions on post-imperial Malaya’s cultural life and artistic development in the interim, interstitial period between the collapse of British colonialism and the formation of the Malaysian and Singaporean nation-states, arguing that art of that period can be located within the exigencies of modern(ist) nation-building. Chen is recognised and briefly referenced as a Malayan artist.


  • Loy, R. (2014, June 20). Docudrama to introduce Georgette Chen to more Singaporeans. The Business Times (Singapore). Retrieved from Factiva.
    Announces a project on Chen in the form of a three-part docudrama (link provided below in the ‘Resources: Websites’ section) commissioned by the National Gallery and produced by Channel NewsAsia.


  • Mediacorp News. (2015, November 24). Nanyang art movement in the spotlight at National Gallery Singapore. Channel NewAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Recognises the Nanyang Artists as instrumental figures in the maturation of Singaporean art and culture and genesis of a regional/local selfhood, and reports on the newly-inaugurated National Gallery’s timely pertinent focus on these artists and their works.


  • Mediacorp News. (2015, November 2). UOB’s four-decade-old art collection open to public for the first time. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Announces a public exhibition by Southeast Asian artists at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from the United Overseas Bank’s in-house collection; Chen’s Sweet Rambutans (undated) is amongst the 80-odd works on display.


  • Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh. (2016, February 2). New wave of the old. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Documents Singaporean archival efforts in the digital age, from the National Library’s MusicSG portal to the Theatre Practice’s private archive. Notes the Georgette Chen collection at the National Gallery’s Resource Centre, which is in possession of 976 of her letters and another 4,000 of her personal and professional effects.


  • Shetty, D. (2015, October 20). Art collection tells the story of S’pore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Identifies the centrality of the Singaporean art collection housed at the National Gallery Singapore—including Chen’s Lotus in a Breeze (1970)—in constructing and articulating a narrative of national identity through the trajectory of local art.


  • Shetty, D. (2015, October 20). Five highlights of Singapore art you should not miss at the National Gallery. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Listicle of and guide to key works of Singaporean art housed at the National Gallery, including Chen’s Lotus in a Breeze (1970).


  • Shetty, D. (2014, April 3). SE Asian focus for National Gallery. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
    Announces the fulfilment long-overdue emphasis and foregrounding on Southeast Asian art in regional museums with the two permanent galleries at the National Gallery Singapore—the DBS Singapore and Southeast Asia Galleries; Chen’s Self-Portrait (c1946) is recognised as an integral piece selected for display.


  • Shetty, D. (2012, December 4). Singapore art rising. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva. Reports on the rising prominence of Singaporean art in the global art scene, as evinced in the auction-house. Chen’s Cattleya Orchid (undated), which was estimated to fetch HK$500,000 to HK$700,000, sold for HK$1,700,000, at more than twice that valuation, on November 2012.



(listed in alphabetical order)


    From the Singaporean chapter of the Postcolonial Web, maintained by the University Scholars Programme at the National University of Singapore. An archive of links to web images of nine of Chen’s most iconic works.


  • Georgette Chen. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2016, from the TributeSG website:
    From the TributeSG website, which aspires to foreground and document artists of note that have enriched and developed Singapore’s cultural scene. Interactive webpage that displays multiple photographs of Chen and images of her works, along with an introduction and biography of Chen at length.


  • The Worlds of Georgette Chen. (2016). Retrieved March 4, 2016, from the National Gallery Singapore website:
    Provides access to view all three episodes of the Chen docudrama, entitled The Worlds of Georgette Chen, commissioned by the National Gallery Singapore and produced by Channel NewsAsia; Mediacorp artiste Rui En stars as the eponymous character. Prefaced by a brief introduction to Chen.


  • National Library Board. (2002). Georgette Chen, written by Creamer, Ruth. Retrieved March 4, 2016, from Singapore Infopedia.
    An Infopedia resource that concisely chronicles Chen’s early life and later works, as well as major exhibitions held.


  • National Library Board. (2009). The Nanyang style, written by Yeo, Alicia & Balagopal, Roberta. Retrieved March 4, 2016, from Singapore Infopedia.
    Another Infopedia resource that provides a succinct and general introduction to the Nanyang art movement, including its characteristics and prominent artists.


Audio-Visual Materials

(listed in alphabetical order)


  • Chen Wen Hsi & Georgette Chen. (1987). [Videotape]. Singapore: Ministry of Community Development.
    Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CHE
    45-minute video chronicling Chen’s artistic development/maturation throughout her career; footage also includes the opening ceremony and a survey of her 1985 retrospective exhibition held at the National Museum Art Gallery.


  • They made a difference (星期二特写: 先贤异彩). (2002). [Videotape]. Singapore: Television Corporation of Singapore.
    Call no.: RSING Chinese 959.57 THE – [HIS] A special series in Mandarin that features Chen, amongst other iconic/historical Singaporean figures such as Zubir Said and Lee Kong Chian, for her endeavours in enriching and advancing the cultural and artistic scene in Singapore.


Oral History Interviews

(listed in alphabetical order)


  • Fan, J. (Interviewer). (1997, May 19). Oral history interview with Chia Wai Hon [Accession No. 001886]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Opines on Singaporean art, especially in its syncretic mode that integrates Western and Asian artistic traditions; discloses his evaluation of Chen.


  • Pitt, K. W. (Interviewer). (1984, June 15). Oral history interview with Lim Nang Seng @ Lim Nam Seng [Accession No. 000413]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Discusses the local art scene in the 1960s, including his opinion of Chen’s artistic sensibilities.


  • Sheares, C. (Interviewer). (1988). Oral history interview with Georgette Liying Chen [Accession No. 000956]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Six reels amounting to about three hours of running time on Chen which provide an in-depth introduction to and elaboration of her life and career, including her formal education at various art institutions, Parisian exhibitions, relocation to Singapore, and time at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Transcripts are available for five of the reels.


  • Tan, B. L. (Interviewer). (1982, November 23). Oral history interview with Liu Kang [Accession No. 000171]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Liu articulates his debut encounter with Chen in Paris as well as a brief background on her.


  • Teo, K. G. (Interviewer). (2012, May 14). Oral history interview with Lee See Sin [Accession No. 003736]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Lee discloses his time as an art student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Chen.


  • Yap, W. C. (Interviewer). (1997, June 6). Oral history interview with Chua Mia Tee [Accession No. 001901]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Charges the irony of the two exhibition halls at the Singapore Art Museum named after Singaporean artists, one of which is Chen, that house no works by said artists.


  • Yap, W. C. (Interviewer). (1998, May 6). Oral history interview with Lim Yew Kuan [Accession No. 002011]. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Discloses his time spent at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts under various tutors, including Chen; provides several anecdotes.



(listed in alphabetical order)


  • East coast vendor(1960–61), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2008). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from PictureSG.


  • Georgette Chen: Headshot. (1979–2001), [Image of photograph], [Online]. (2008). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from PictureSG.


  • Moon festival table. (1965–1968), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2008). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from PictureSG.


  • Self-portrait. (1946), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2008). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from PictureSG.


  • Singapore waterfront. (1958), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2008). Retrieved March 3, 2016, from PictureSG.






Academic Theses



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Ng Su May
Heirwin Mohd Nasir
Jason Yan (Updated by)


The information in this resource guide is valid as at Feb 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2017.

Written by Jason Yan