Painter Lee Boon Wang dies at 82 after battle with cancer

Singapore painter Lee Boon Wang poses with his 1989 oil self-portrait as a sailor.
Singapore painter Lee Boon Wang poses with his 1989 oil self-portrait as a sailor. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore oil painter Lee Boon Wang, an avid sailor well-known for his riverside scenes and seascapes, died on Sunday after battling cancer for the past two-and-a-half years. He was 82.

His death came 10 days after that of another second-generation artist and watercolourist Chan Chang How, who was 74. He was also suffering from cancer.

Mr Lee, the elder brother of former Cabinet minister Lee Boon Yang, was so ill when he staged his last solo exhibition at a local gallery in May that he was unable to attend its opening.

His eldest son Thomas Lee, 53, an engineer, said his father died peacefully at St Andrew's Community Hospital. His 71-year-old mother, and two younger sisters were all present.

The artist recovered from pancreatic cancer after surgery in early 2014, but suffered a relapse in January this year when the cancer spread to his colon.

Mr Thomas Lee said: "My father was very self-motivated, and painted almost to his last days. He would like to be remembered as an artist and avid sailor."

In an interview days before his last solo exhibition, the artist told The Straits Times that many of his works were inspired by his travels at sea all over the world, adding: "I have great feelings for the sea. The sea is also a part of my life."


Hai Hui Art Gallery's owner Di Xiujuan, 47, who staged his last show, said his works sold for as much as $130,000 and many were collected by the National Gallery Singapore.

Born in China, the artist moved here with his parents when he was a child. He graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1953 and was among the founders of the now-defunct Equator Art Society, a leftist art group which promoted realist art here in the mid-1950s.

His brother-in-law is last year's Cultural Medallion recipient, painter Chua Mia Tee. His younger sister Lee Boon Ngan, who is married to Mr Chua, is also an oil painter.

Singapore Watercolour Society president Seah Kang Chui, 71, said: "It is sad to see two second-generation artists leaving us all within the last 10 days.

"Mr Chan Chang How was an active member of my society for decades and Mr Lee was one of our best oil painters who was also known for his watercolours and human figures."

Mr Lee's wake is being held at Singapore Casket. His funeral will take place on Wednesday (Nov 2) at 2.45 pm.