Oil paintings of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, scenes of old Singapore collected in new book

Retiree Vincent Chua's The Singapore Story features oil paintings of Mr Lee Kuan Yew from an exhibition held last year. About 1,000 visitors requested the works to be put into a book.
Retiree Vincent Chua's The Singapore Story features oil paintings of Mr Lee Kuan Yew from an exhibition held last year. About 1,000 visitors requested the works to be put into a book.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The 70,000 people who visited an exhibition of oil paintings of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew last year during the SG50 celebrations liked the works so much that about 1,000 of them requested the images to be put into a book.

That is exactly what the paintings' owner, retiree Vincent Chua, did. The Singapore Story, a 48-page book, was launched yesterday at The Arts House by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, just a week before the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death. The event was attended by 23 diplomats from countries including China and Israel.

Dr Balakrishnan called the book "the effort of a proud Singapore citizen". It features 80 oil paintings - about half of which depict the late Mr Lee and the other half, scenes of old Singapore.

They are from the personal collection of Mr Chua, 72, who was the manager of an insurance company.

"These paintings show Singapore's development from its early days to today... They also present a visual history lesson for young Singaporeans, who did not live through the early tumultuous times," said Mr Chua, who began commissioning these paintings from artists in China from 2008.

The first piece in his collection was a commissioned oil paint rendition of a photograph showing Mr Lee shaking hands with former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Mr Chua bought the photo from a flea market in Chinatown in 2007.

Mr Chua continued commissioning paintings for the next six years, and would spend hours searching for photographs to base the paintings on from flea markets and the National Archives of Singapore.

In 2011, one of Mr Chua's paintings was spotted by Mr Lee during a dinner at Raffles Institution, where the paintings were displayed temporarily. Mr Lee said it was "a very good likeness".

Mr Chua hopes some of the paintings will be included in the upcoming Founders' Memorial. His book, which costs $128 including delivery, can be purchased online at www.thesingaporestory.com.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Oil paintings of Mr Lee, scenes of old S'pore collected in new book'. Print Edition | Subscribe