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Resources > Collections > Artist Lim Hak Tai 林学大

Lim Hak Tai (1893 – 1963)

Lim Hak Tai was born in 1893, Xiamen, China and held a certificate in applied arts from the Fujian Provincial Teachers’ Training College. Upon graduation, he returned home to teach at various schools before co-founding the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts in 1923. In 1937, Lim migrated to Singapore and, the following year established the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) with a group of arts education enthusiasts. The school aimed to introduce a fine balance of Western and Chinese art traditions in its curriculum, which NAFA embraces to this day. As the Founding Principal of NAFA, Lim was a visionary who endured many trials in the service of arts education, dedicating himself to the school and its students for 25 years. While he served as the principal, he also taught art education, watercolour and oil painting while simultaneously teaching at the Chinese High School.

Lim was an advocate for a regional style of art making. Lim urged his students and fellow teachers to make artworks of Southeast Asian environments and local subject matters while integrating Western and Chinese styles and techniques. He encouraged the historic trip undertaken by his peers Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Liu Kang to Bali, Indonesia, in 1952. They returned with a rich body of works representing an expressive style distinct to their careers. As an artist, Lim was proficient in Western oil painting, Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, evident in many of his works highlighting local cultural sensibilities. In 1962, Lim was awarded the Sijil Kemuliaan (Certificate of Honour) in recognition of his artistic contributions. Lim passed away in 1963.