Chen Li Ying Georgette (1906–1993) By Low, Yvonne
Georgette Chen was a Chinese émigré artist who settled in Singapore in 1953 and taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) until 1981. Described as the most influential, pioneering female artist in Singapore, Chen brought modernist ideas to the nascent Malayan art world and was instrumental in fostering modernism in local art practice. Her oil paintings, her strongest and most proficient artform, were initially influenced by the Realist and Barbizon Schools. Later her paintings became informed by French Post-Impressionism—especially Fauvism—most notably in their approach toward color. Her mastery of modernism culminated in a synthesis of Western and Eastern philosophies, which was best represented by her portraits, tropical still lives, and plein air paintings of everyday scenes in the Malayan landscape—all of which conveyed a distinct local flavor. Chen was known as the first generation of “Nanyang artists,” most of whom were affiliated to NAFA as teachers, and who were responsible for bringing to Malaya a sophistication and cosmopolitanism that was deemed missing from the local art scene.