Still Life with Rambutans, Mangosteens and Pineapple

Still Life with Rambutans, Mangosteens and Pineapple
signed 'CHEN' (upper right)
oil on canvas
54 x 65 cm. (22 x 25 5/8 in.)
Painted circa 1960s
Gallery 1, Singapore
Private Collection, Singapore
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, Singapore
Please note that the correct measurement for Lot 35 in inches is 22 x 25 5/8 in.
????35??????54 x 65 ?? (22 x 25 5/8??) ?


Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau




Born in China in 1906, Georgette Chen led a privileged life in her early years as the daughter of a travelling businessman and received her formal education in art from institutions in China, New York, and Paris. In 1930, the same year as her marriage to her first husband Eugene Chen, Chen exhibited at the prestigious Salon d'Automne in Paris, establishing her as a promising young artist. The end of the war and the unfortunate passing of her husband led her to relocate to Singapore in 1954. There, she took up a teaching position at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art and, alongside her fellow Singapore pioneer artists, went on to develop her unique style of painting while guiding and influencing the generations of artists to follow.

Unlike her peers at the academy, Chen never quite took to traditional Chinese ink painting despite an early introduction to the art form. Instead, Chen favoured the styles and techniques of the Western Impressionists, citing Cezanne and Van Gogh amongst early influences to her personal practice. Chen’s significant contribution to the Nanyang style was her delicate mastery of the Western oil painting techniques in her novel treatment of the local subject matter.

Still Life with Rambutans, Mangosteens and Pineapple (Lot 35) is a rare work of exceptional quality for its display of Chen’s skilled draughtsmanship, compositional mastery of still life, and tender sensitivity to the nuanced rhythms of such quiet, contemplative scenes.

Working in a controlled studio setting, Chen was able to arrange her selection of tropical fruits precisely without them appearing contrived. Luscious, red rambutans spill onto the table alongside a cluster of ripened, purple mangosteens piled up in a sturdy rattan basket. Supporting the display is a lone pineapple, leaning diagonally in the background to provide both a physical and visual balance to the composition. Some of the fruits have their skin peeled back to reveal juicy white flesh, enticing the viewers into the reality that the painting portrays. While the porcelain plate balances upon a seemingly carelessly thrown white tablecloth, the rest of the composition has undoubtedly been positioned to perfection.

The Western academic tradition of still life painting sought to frame every image in a particular time and place, as signified by the artists' selection of everyday objects that are in turn elevated to items worthy of meticulous study and record. Instead of the usual combination of porcelain fruit bowls filled with fresh apples and oranges, Chen’s choice of these distinctly tropical fruits was deliberate and thoughtful as she knowingly bestows upon them the same level of regard as their Western counterparts. Even the nondescript rattan basket plays its role as a cultural signifier in the arrangement, firmly situating the captured moment within the Southeast Asian context.

Chen drew significantly from Cézanne’s approach to painting the physical form and his experimental dealings with the pictorial format. Just as Cézanne combined multiplanar viewpoints to inform his still life compositions, the present lot appears to be regarded simultaneously from a height but also viewed straight on. Doing so increases the “tactility” of the optical experience, manifesting the “feeling” of perspective on a two-dimensional plane. Like Cézanne, Chen succeeds in creating a new world within her painting, inviting us to go beyond the visual enjoyment of the scene to enjoy it experientially.

Georgette’s later works in Penang and Singapore favoured a more vibrant colour palette that reflected a sensitivity to the light and warmth of the tropics unlike the sombre palette of her early years in Paris, mirroring Van Gogh's development from a duller, melancholic palette to the saturated colours of the masterpieces he is known for today. In the present lot, the discordant sprinkling of beiges, mint greens, and pale pinks in visible brushstrokes on the backdrop seem to suggest the twinkling of the tropical sunlight streaming into the otherwise controlled studio environment. Chen was less concerned with rendering reproductions of visual realities and rejected any preconceived notion of the nature of objects and forms. Instead, she channels her energy into enhancing the expressiveness of the objects in the present. Chen does not focus on the supposed forms of the fruits, and instead mimics the intense light of the equatorial sun falling on the composition, imbuing her fruits with an inner luminosity.

Beautifully composed and a joy to behold, Still Life with Rambutans, Mangosteens and Pineapple is an excellent example of the enduring appeal of Georgette Chen’s unique take on the Western tradition.

更多来自 亚洲二十世纪及当代艺术(晚间拍卖)/ 融艺(晚间拍卖)