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 Guangzhou in 1909, Lucien Wang was a renowned music teacher in Singapore who dedicated more than 40 years of her life to teaching piano and groomed several accomplished musicians such as Ong Lip Tat, Lim Jing Jing and Benjamin Loh. Her mother, Lee Wai Tek, shared a close relationship with her daughter. In the 1920s, Lee supported Wang’s plans to further her studies in Music in Paris when everyone else discouraged her from doing so. In 1939, Wang and her husband left for Singapore to flee the Sino-Japanese war. Lee moved away from China with a domestic helper to support her daughter in Singapore. Lim Hak Tai, also a friend of Wang, painted the portrait of Wang’s mother to celebrate the loving care of a mother. The gentle smile on her face and the look of concern expresses the love that Lee showered Wang throughout her lifetime.