Chen Wen Hsi (1906 - 1991) was an artist, an academician and a gallerist. Born in Guandong, China, he studied art at the Shanghai College of Art in 1928. Wen Hsi settled down in Singapore at 1948 and taught art at The Chinese High School from 1949 to 1968, concurrently teaching art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from 1951 to 1959. As a passionate art educator he had greatly influenced many of Singapore’s early Chinese artists. Wen Hsi was a great observer of nature and it was his master inspiration to create exciting work namely, landscapes, human figures and animals. Chickens, gibbons, herons, carps and squirrels are some of his favourite subjects.
Wen Hsi’s constant eagerness to strive for something new led him to learn finger painting - a technique that dates from the Tang Dynasty. This drawing style has enabled him to produce unpredictable broken strokes on paper. Besides Chinese brush painting, Wen Hsi also produced abstract compositions in oil and Chinese inks of which his paintings showed a strong influence of analytical Cubism and Fauvism with non-naturalistic and exuberant colours. He painted ceaselessly throughout his life and numerous solo and group exhibitions were held in Singapore and internationally.
Wen Hsi’s artistic excellence was recognised through the various awards he received which include the Public Service Star in 1964, a Gold Medal by the National Museum of History, Taiwan in 1980, the first recipient of the ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award for outstanding artists in 1987 and he also received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Singapore.
The Arts Council of Malaya at Raffles Museum first exhibited “Bird Cages” in October 1953. It still has its original white wooden frame as well as the 1953 exhibition sticker.