Born in China, Georgette Chen Li Ying (1906-1993) received her art education in Paris, New York and Shanghai. Chen's artistic oeuvre can be divided into three phases: French Period from 1927-1933; China-Hong Kong Period from 1934-1948 and Penang-Singapore Period from 1949-1980. Immensely inspired by her surroundings, she produced still-lifes, portraits and landscapes from each phase. Settling in Singapore in 1954, she taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts until her retirement in 1980. Regarded as a Pioneer Artist of Singapore who developed the Nanyang Style, she was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1982. Painted possibly a few years after the passing of Eugene Chen, 'Self Portrait' has a remarkable sense of detachment. Faithful to her ideas of portraiture, Chen composed with an economy of means: minimal lines to delineate the contours of the face and hair, meagre use of colours to differentiate shades of facial complexion from the simple background and clear articulation of features. Her careful use of visual elements not only captures likeness but also heightens psychological insights.


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