Xiamen-born Cheong Soo Pieng began his art education at age 16 at the Xiamen Fine Art Academy under Lim Hak Tai. In 1936, to further his studies, Cheong enrolled in Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai briefly before returning to teach at his alma mater. In 1946, Cheong relocated to Singapore and found employment at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, which was headed and founded by his ex-tutor Lim Hak Tai. Cheong inspired many young artists during his 14-year employment at the academy before retiring to be a full-time artist in 1959. Cheong was part of the group of five artists who embarked on a landmark trip to Bali in 1952 to portray the beauty of Southeast Asia.
Completed in the early 1950s, Buffalo and Boy presents Cheong’s observations of Singapore after his relocation to the island. Using the woodblock, Cheong carves in detail what appears to be a boy in a turban, tending to a buffalo. This scene was familiar in Singapore during the early to mid-twentieth century, especially in the vicinity of present-day Little India, where many Bengali and Tamil milkmen reared their cows and provided milk for the residents.