The founding principal of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), Lim Hak Tai, was one of Singapore’s most notable artists. Adept in Western oil painting, Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, Lim integrates Western and Chinese techniques while portraying Southeast Asian subject matter. This style of work is known as the “Nanyang style”. Lim ensured that the school he established embraced similar sentiments. The curriculum was one of the first schools in Asia to strike a balance between Western and Chinese art traditions in the curriculum, an initiative that NAFA still embraces today.
Born in Xiamen in 1893, Lim spent the first half of his life in his hometown. He obtained his Diploma in Applied Arts from the Fujian Provincial Teacher’s Training College in Fujian before founding the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts with friends and fellow artists Huang Suibi and Yang Gengtang. Lim was not only the head of the art education department at his academy but also taught at several schools in and around Xiamen. It was only in 1937 that Lim moved to Singapore at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. Flowers is a significant work that illustrates Lim’s artistic style before his move to Singapore. The calligraphy on the painting reads “释文: 丁亥夏孟伟甫林學大冩”.