Georgette Chen painting rediscovered in Centre Pompidou

Landscape (above), by pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen, is in the collection of Centre Pompidou.
Landscape (above), by pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen, is in the collection of Centre Pompidou.PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI/JIM PURCELL/DIST. RMN-GP, FILE PHOTO

After years away from the public eye, a painting by pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen in the Centre Pompidou collection has resurfaced.

National Gallery Singapore curator Phoebe Scott says: "When we were discussing the artists to include in the exhibition, Centre Pompidou realised that it also had a work by Georgette Chen in its collection.

"It is a strong reflection of Chen's cosmopolitanism that her work is held in both collections."

Chen studied art in Paris in the 1920s and her oil-on-canvas painting in the Pompidou collection, dating from the 1930s, points to an early stage in her practice.

The painting, titled Landscape, is built up by daubs of colours and calls to mind the paintings of French modern art master Paul Cezanne.

The brushstroke in Landscape is unlike that in her later works, which tend to be short and thick. Her characteristic use of vibrant colour, however, is seen here.


Landscape, by pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen (above), is in the collection of Centre Pompidou. PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI/JIM PURCELL/DIST. RMN-GP, FILE PHOTO

While Centre Pompidou cannot confirm how the painting entered its collection, its curators believe the work was originally part of the Musee du Ecole Etrangeres, which was also known as the Musee du Jeu de Paume.

The museum, which opened in 1922, showed works by living foreign artists including the Spanish-born Pablo Picasso.

It held an exhibition of Chinese artists in 1931, which included Chen, and records suggest that Landscape was likely acquired through that show. Some of her biographies record that she sold works to that museum when she was exhibiting in Paris in the 1930s.

It closed before World War II and its collection was transferred to the Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne, which was integrated into Centre Pompidou.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Georgette Chen painting rediscovered in Centre Pompidou'. Print Edition | Subscribe