Lee Man Fong (1913 - 1988) was a prominent artist based in Indonesia and Singapore. Primarily working with oil paintings, Lee was associated with the Nanyang style, which blends Chinese techniques and subjects with Western composition styles and mediums.
Lee was born in Canton, China. He arrived in Singapore at a young age and then later moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. He displayed great artistic talent since a young age. In 1931, he participated in the Dutch East Indies Association’s First Art Exhibition on invitation by the head of the Association. In 1941, Lee engaged in full time painting and subsequently, his successful exhibitions in Bandung and Jakarta made him a fast growing artist at that time. In 1946, he received a scholarship from the Dutch government to study painting in Holland. Between 1946 and 1952, Lee held four solo exhibitions in Amsterdam and The Hague, and participated in an International Salon (art exhibition) in Paris. When Lee returned to Indonesia in 1952, his artistic technique had reached a new level of maturity. He largely produced works of Indonesian subjects such as The Balinese Youth (1952) and The Rojak Seller (1953). In 1961, he was officially appointed as the presidential palace’s painter and chief curator of its collection and compiled a 5-volume edition of President Sukarno’s art collection.
Lee returned to Singapore in 1967 and made Singapore his home base for the next 20 years. While in Singapore, Lee held two high-profile solo exhibitions at the Victoria Memorial Hall in 1967 and in 1981. In 1987, Lee held his final solo exhibition in Singapore at the National Museum.
Lee’s subject matter included wide range of human figures, landscapes and animals particularly those commonly found in Chinese brush paintings, such as goldfish, doves, chickens, rabbits, horses and tigers. He developed his paintings by creating a personal expression based on observation of life and nature around him.
Lee is a master at the blending of East and West in his oil paintings and his works remain highly sought-after and are found in both public and private collections internationally. In April 2010, Lee’s Bali Life (c. 1960s), was sold for a record HK$25.3 million (S$4.1 million) at a Chinese contemporary art auction held by Sotheby's in Hong Kong, becoming the most expensive Southeast Asian artwork on auction.