Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Retracing the footsteps of Xu Beihong
On 14 Jun 2008, I took part in the Art Tour to Hundred-Fan Studio (百扇斋艺游) organised by the Singapore Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang. The speaker of this art tour was Mr Han Tan Juan.
The tour brought its participants to retrace the footsteps of Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953) when he was in Singapore. We had the pleasure to visit Jiang Xia Tang along Lor 35 Geylang, Singapore. Jiang Xia Tang was a place where Xu Beihong had lived and worked in when he was in Singapore, particularly between 1938 - 1941.
Before the group departed for Jiang Xia Tang by bus, Mr Han showed the group about the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang, and highlighted several paintings that were worked on at Jiang Xia Tang. One of the paintings that he had highlighted was Put Down Your Whip. He gave us an account of this street drama.
Above two photos: Taken at Jiang Xia Tang.
I heard from Mr Han that there used to be coconut trees growing around Jiang Xia Tang when Xu Beihong was staying there.
At Jiang Xia Tang, which is now known as the Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Huay, Mr Han shared about how the term Jiang Xia is often associated with people with the surname Huang. In short, Jiang Xia is regarded as the Cradle of the Huang Clan. For more about this surname, I've found this online source: http://www.geocities.com/bx_huang/Huang_origin.html
Mr Han also shared with us that Xu Beihong had worked on many of his paintings in this part of the building of Jiang Xia Tang. This part of the building is located on the ground floor.
At Jiang Xia Tang. It was at this part of the building where Xu Beihong had worked on many of his paintings.
Here, he also spoke about the portrait of one of the British Governors, Sir Shenton Thomas, done by Xu Beihong. Mr Han shared with us that Xu Beihong was given the chance to do a portrait for Sir Shenton Thomas through the recommendations of Lim Boon Keng. Sir Shenton Thomas had travelled to Jiang Xia Tang for Xu Beihong to work on his portrait. I was told that Sir Shenton Thomas had left behind his ceremonial attire for a while in Jiang Xia Tang for Xu Beihong's references. This enabled Xu Beihong to paint accurately the attire of the governor. This portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas is now on display at the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore History Gallery.
Mr Han also pointed the group to the location of the bedroom that Xu Beihong had stayed in when he was at Jiang Xia Tang. Look at the photo right above, the window from the second floor was the window from Xu Beihong's room. The group was given permission to take a look at the room that Xu Beihong had stayed in.
A glimpse of the room that Xu Beihong had stayed in while he was at Jiang Xia Tang.
After Jiang Xia Tang, the bus took us to get a glimpse of the former Great Southern Hotel, popularly known in the past as Nam Tin. Mr Han shared that the Great Southern Hotel was one place that Xu Beihong had met up with his friends when he was in Singapore. No prize, but would anyone want to answer what is the current use of the location of the former Great Southern Hotel?
Our last stop for the tour was at the Victoria Concert Hall, which used to be the Victoria Memorial Hall. It was at Victoria Memorial Hall whereby Xu Beihong had held an art exhibition in the year 1939 to raise funds for the anti-Japanese efforts in China.
Many thanks to Mr Han Tan Juan for his excellent and information tour, filled with interesting anecdotes related to the great master, Xu Beihong.
For information on similar programmes organised by the Singapore Art Museum, please visit http://www.nhb.gov.sg/SAM for updates.
By the way, the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang will be held till 13 July 2008. Do check it out if you have not done so.