Lee Man Fong


(Chinese, Guangzhou, Canton, China, 1913 - Jakarta, Indonesia 1988). Lee was three years old when he immigrated to Singapore. He was schooled in Singapore. Although his artistic yearnings began at a very young age, he could dedicate himself full time to painting much later because of the financial situation of the family.

In 1932 he moved to Jakarta where he started an advertising agency and worked as a commercial artist. In 1936, the head of the Dutch East Indies Association in Batavia invited Lee Man Fong, then a self-taught artist, to participate in a painting exhibition which was previously exclusively a Dutch painters affair. This invitation was the considered unusual, special, and outrageous by the local art community at that time.

After 1940 however, he devoted himself full-time to painting. He visited Bali, where he worked briefly, and held solo exhibitions in Jakarta and Bandung. His solo-exhibition in Jakarta was in May 1941. He was then interned by Japanese during World War Two.

In 1949, he was awarded a grant scholarship from the Dutch government to study painting in Holland for three years, where he held several solo exhibitions.

On his returned to Indonesia, President Soekarno actively supported his work. In 1952, Lee Man Fong became the official painter of the Presidential Palace. In 1955, he founded the Yin Hua Artists Association, and became the chairman. In 1964, Lee Man Fong, together with Lim Wasim, compiled a 5-volume edition of the Soekarno Collection, which also featured many of his works.

During this time he received the Indonesian citizenship. In 1967, when Soekarno fell from grace, Man Fong, who was considered close to Sukarno, and alleged to have communist inclinations, took refuge in Singapore. In 1985 he returned to Indonesia, where he died in 1988 from liver and lung ailments.


Lee Man Fong: A Pioneer Southeast Asian Artist Exhibition Opening and Book Launch
April 9 Exhibition through Sept 25 2005
Art Retreat
10 Ubi Crescent Lobby C #01-45/46/47 Ubi Techpark Singapore 408564

Lee Man Fong is considered to a master who integrated traditional Chinese and modern European elements. He was skilled in ink, pencil, water color, charcoal, pastel, gouache on paper, oil on canvas and on hardboard. He created graphic works with etching and wood cut. His themes varied from plants, flowers and landscapes to objects, old buildings, animals and humans.

The exhibition of 40 works of Lee Man Fong at Art Retreat is held in conjunction with Asian Arts Week in Singapore and jointly organized by the Singapore Art Museum and Art Retreat. The show is embellished by the launch of a book written by art critic Agus Dermawan who highlights the significance of the artist in the Asian, Indonesian, and Singaporean context. A forum titled Rediscovering Lee Man Fong will be conducted.

Art Retreat is a private museum owned by Indonesian collector Kwee Swie Teng, who received the Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award from the National Art Council last September. In 2003, $700,800 was raised through a well-publicized Sotheby's auction in Singapore for the Art Retreat institution.


Rediscovering Lee Man Fong
Jointly presented by SAM and Art Retreat

This forum is held in conjunction with the upcoming Lee Man Fong: A Pioneer Southeast Asian Artist Exhibition (Art Retreat,10 Apr - 25 Sep) Lee Man Fong left a rich legacy through his works. Increasingly sought for their distinctive style integrating traditional Chinese and modern European elements, his works depict the life of Southeast Asia. In his unique Southeast Asian oil paintings, he succeeded in creating a style few had achieved or equaled.

The forum is in Mandarin. Participants are invited to the exhibition opening at Art Retreat following the forum at SAM.

FORUM. 9 Apr (Sat), 2.30pm 5.30pm, SAM Auditorium, Free. (71 Bras Basah Road)