Chen Wen Hsi

1906 - 1991


Chen Wen Hsi | 陈文希  (b. 1906, Guangdong, China; d. 1991, Singapore) is regarded as a first generation Singapore artist. Chen’s practice involved both Western and Chinese ink paintings. His Western-style works range from post-impressionistic and expressionistic pieces to abstraction. Chen’s Chinese painting style also changed over time, from an early xieyi (写意) style (engaging expressive freehand brushstrokes) to the use of modern composition and abstraction. 

Chen commenced his formal education at the Shanghai College of Art in 1926, and later transferred to the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai, where he was taught by Pan Tianshou. He exhibited widely in China, and was selected for the Second China National Exhibition in Nanjing in 1937, which established his position as a leading artist. Moving to Singapore in 1949, Chen taught art at the Chinese High School and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. 

Chen exhibited in 1951 and 1953 with his peers Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee and Liu Kang. These artists, together with Georgette Chen, became known as the pioneers of Nanyang style painting. Chen also exhibited at Commonwealth Art Today (1962) in London, at the Victoria Memorial Hall (1964), Singapore, and the Commonwealth Arts Festival (1965) in the United Kingdom. In 1982 the Chen Wen Hsi Retrospective was held by the National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore. A second retrospective exhibition was held at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing in 1987.

For his contributions to art, Chen received numerous awards, including the Public Service Star (1964), the ASEAN Cultural and Communications Award for outstanding artists (1987), and the Meritorious Service Medal, awarded posthumously in 1991. His works are in the collection of the National Gallery, Singapore and are well-collected by public and private collections.