I recently had an old watercolour painting framed at a shop and the owner was most curious about its origin. The painting had the artist's signature on it but I couldn't really make out what it was. Curious, I went on the web to find out more about the history of watercolour painting in Singapore.
The Singapore Watercolour Society was officially formed in 1969 but prior to that, the art of watercolour had it early roots in the 1920s during the colonial period .
This is according to an article called Early Singapore Art: 1st & 2nd Generation at www.artcommune.com.sg/resourcesthe_sunday_group_18th_mar_2012.pdf
According to the article, a group of art enthusiasts would regularly meet up on Sundays to embark on painting trips. These artists from diverse backgrounds shared a common interest in water colour art and would come together to paint the Singapore River, the Merdeka Bridge, Chinatown scenes and kampongs on stilts. They were often referred to as the Sunday Group and many first and second generation Singapore painters such as Lim Cheng Hoe, Chen Chong Swee, Chia Wai Hon, T.Y Choy, Choy Weng Yang, Ong Chye Cho, Thomas Yeo, Gog Sing Hooi, Ong Kim Sengand Loy Chye Chuan had been Sunday Group painters at different points of their career.
There were 3 schools of art in Singapore's pioneer art days -the watercolourist, traditional Chinese and the Nanyang style of art. The medium of art depended on the different education models and art trainings the artists went through. Most watercolourists were part of the British colonial education system and were exposed to British styles including charcoal and pastel. According to the article, the Sunday group consisted of different people at different times and the practice continued all the way to the 60s and 70s.
The Singapore River was one of the more popular sites where the group gathered for their painting. This place was a key trading hub in early Singapore where coolies carried bags of rice up the bum boats. From there, it was ferried along the river and I've seen scenes like this in early black and white footage on TV. I believe Victoria Memorial Hall lies in the background of this painting but I wonder what is the name of the bridge. And most of all, I wonder who painted this water colour piece.