Lim Tze Peng
Born on September 28, 1921 in Singapore, Lim Tze Peng is recognised as one of Singapore’s most pre-eminent visual artists, particularly within the Chinese ink and calligraphic tradition, and a second-generation member of the Nanyang Artists. Over the course of his long artistic career which started in the 1950s (alongside his equally impressive tenure in the education service as the principal of Xinmin Secondary School), the self-taught and home-grown artist has come to develop a culturally, aesthetically, and critically significant oeuvre. In 2003, Lim was conferred the prestigious Cultural Medallion (Visual Arts) in honour of his centrality in Singapore art and culture. Lim was also the recipient of the Public Administration Medal in 1963 and Public Service Medal in 1981, as well as a Special Prize at the 1977 Commonwealth Art Exhibition. In May 2012, Lim’s “Singapore River Scene” (1978) broke records by fetching HK$620,000 (S$101,800) at a Christie’s auction, which was, at that time, an unsurpassed price for a work by a living Singaporean artist.
Lim Tze Peng© Lim Tze Peng, 2002–2006. All rights reserved.
Courtesy of the National Arts Council.
Retrieved from PictureSG.
While Lim is arguably most known for his works depicting and representing familiar Singaporean scenes/sites such as Malay kampungs (villages), the Singapore River, and Chinatown, as motivated by a nostalgic desire to register and document local heritage potentially endangered by the imperatives of modernity and modernisation, his subject matter also includes material such as Bali (Indonesia), Thailand, and Paris (France), as inspired by his travels and expeditions. This visual idioms and vocabularies of his works span oil painting, Chinese ink, and Chinese calligraphy; Lim has, of late, primarily concentrated mostly on the latter, reinventing and enlarging the Chinese calligraphic tradition with what he christens hutuzi (lit. ‘muddled calligraphy’).
Lim’s first solo exhibition was mounted in 1970 and he has since participated in many solo and group exhibitions since then. A key milestone in his career was his first overseas solo exhibition, “Inroads: The Ink Journey of Lim Tze Peng”, at the National Art Museum of China (Beijing, China), China’s premier fine and applied art museum, and Liu Haisu Art Museum in Shanghai in 2008. Today, Lim’s works can be found in the National Collection (many of which are donated by the artist himself and his patron Koh Seow Chuan); they have also been enthusiastically acquired by private galleries and collectors both local and abroad.
|The Arts: History, Biography
|Painting & Paintings
|Paintings: History, Biography
Books and Exhibition Catalogues
(listed in alphabetical order)
Exhibition catalogue in accompaniment to Lim’s solo exhibition, Calligraphic Impulses, Ink Mastery, at the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery in 2009, which showcased about 80 new and old works by Lim. Other than colour replications of the works showcased, the text is also prefaced by a biographical timeline that itemizes Lim’s selected exhibitions, awards accorded, and published collections.
- Chua, C. K. & Tan, B. T. (Eds.). (2003). Tze Peng. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum.
Call no.: RSING 759.95957 LIM
This exhibition catalogue in both English and Simplified Chinese for the 2003 solo exhibition entitled “Tze Peng” (Zi Ping) hosted by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). Includes several essays, including one by Mr. and Mrs. Koh Seow Chuan, who donated over 200 works by Lim for the exhibition, and others by curators, fellow artists, and Kwok Kian Chow, director of the SAM. Full-colour reproductions of his works are included, and organised into 11 themes, such as “The Rural Idyll: Bali and Beyond,” “Life in Action: Trade and Tradition,” and “Festive Delights.”
A companion text to the 2014 Friends of Lim Tze Peng exhibition held on the grounds of the Singapore Management University, this is arguably one of the most comprehensive monographs or textual resources on Lim and his calligraphic/ink work, in particular. It includes three essays on his artistic career and aesthetic sensibilities in addition to an artist’s biography and over 50 full colour plates of the works mounted at the exhibition.
A catalogue of works by Lim in the private collection of Ong Teng Huat to commemorate the establishment of ArtSafe, an art storage and gallery space, in 2012. Full-colour plate reproductions of Lim’s works are structured by their thematic concerns, such as “Nature,” “Travel,” and “Singapore River,” with each division prefaced by an instructive preamble.
Includes a concise introduction to Lim as a Singaporean artist, an artist’s statement and a brief timeline of key events in his career such as major solo and group exhibitions; accompanied by colour reproductions of three of his works: “Meal-Time” (1982), “Festival” (1996), and “Hawker under the Shade” (1997).
Lim is referenced here in Kwok’s monograph on Singapore art as a member of Chi Wei Yeh’s Ten Men Art Group, which endeavoured to aggregate visual and inspirational material through trips to the region in the 1960s. Lim’s “Blacksmith” (1980) is reprinted in colour here, along with an incisive examination of his formal strategies and artistic sensibilities.
Features Lim’s personal recount of his artistic process, vision, and motivations as well as a full-colour reproduction of his work, “Chinatown” (1983).
Published in conjunction with an exhibition, this art catalogue has images of paintings and calligraphic works from the 1950s to 2000s, the majority of which have not been publicly shown before. These works were selected for the exhibition by Lim, and brings the viewer through the different periods of his artistic career.
Showcases 47 of Lim’s Chinese ink/calligraphic works, with a biography, preface, and introduction in traditional Chinese.
Exhibition catalogue for the similarly-titled traveling solo exhibition by Lim mounted at Beijing and Shanghai in 2009; features recent acquisitions as well as earlier works in the Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) collection. Multiple colour plates of the exhibited works are included. Of particular note are the series of essays in both English and simplified Chinese by keynote individuals such as the exhibition curators and museum directors that comprehensively consider and illuminate Lim as an artist and the development and maturity of his artistic sensibilities and paradigms.
Reproduces Lim’s lesser-known yet culturally- and historically-noteworthy series of nine oil paintings that panoramically imagine and represent the Singapore River in full colour.
Exhibition catalogue of his solo exhibition held at the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery in 2012, which as its title indicates, concentrates on Lim’s works representing Chinatown. Ian Findlay-Brown’s introduction affords an instructive examination of Lim’s artistic expression and formal strategies, and provides a commentary on several of the featured works. Colour plate reproductions of 26 of the works featured are included.
Catalogue of some 47 ink works by Lim produced between 1975 and 1985, reprinted as colour plates along with a bilingual introduction in English and Simplified Chinese from Weng Yang Choy.
A follow-up to Lim’s first artist monograph (which features his scenic artworks on Bali, China, Malaysia, and Singapore) that turns to 81 of Lim’s artistic representations of Singapore’s recent past, in particular Chinatown and the Singapore River. Includes a bilingual introduction in English and traditional Chinese by Wai Hon Chia.
Published in conjunction with the 2007 solo exhibition at the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery. The exhibition centered on his works representing street scenes and festivals, as well as paintings of sunflowers and chrysanthemums. Colour reproductions of the works mounted are included.
The primary exhibition catalogue published to accompany the “Siapa nama kamu” exhibition at the National Gallery, Heng Cai’s essay entitled “Tradition Unfettered: The Story of Singapore Ink,” which scrutinises and elaborates on the history of ink and calligraphic painting in Singapore, briefly discusses Lim with reference to his work, “Blacksmith” (1980) and instructively locates him within a larger artistic canon or tradition. A colour plate of the aforementioned work is also included in the catalogue.
An exhibition catalogue published in conjunction with the first joint art exhibition by the Singaporean and Bruneian governments showcasing works from both countries. Lim’s “Kampong Air Link” was featured, and accordingly reproduced here in colour along with a biographical timeline of the artist.
Exhibition catalogue for the 1988 Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts-organized exhibition honouring its lecturers. Lim was featured; his Chinese painting of the Singapore River was mounted and reproduced as a colour plate here.
An extended and comprehensive contemplation on the Nanyang art movement and its relationship with the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, from which the former arguably originated. Lim is featured as a ‘second-generation’ Nanyang artist; two colour reproductions of his ink and calligraphic works are included, along with a brief biography, a brief comparative consideration of him and Cheong Soo Pieng in Bridget Tracy Tan’s introduction, as well as his responses to an interview of five questions (reprinted in both English and Simplified Chinese) concerning his artistic idioms and his fine art career.
Published in conjunction with a 1984 exhibition, which retrospectively celebrates and showcases Singapore’s artistic/cultural milestones in the past decade at the National Museum Art Gallery for the year’s edition of the Singapore Festival of the Arts. Lim’s “Street Scene” (1981) figures in the exhibition and is correspondingly catalogued in the list of exhibits.
A companion text to the exhibition of Singapore works from private art collections that was organised to commemorate two decades of the Singapore Festival of the Arts, Lim is referenced here as constitutive of the ‘second-generation artists’; several of his works, such as “Sumatra” (1970) and “Ruins” (c1976) are reproduced here as both colour and black-and-white plates.
Exhibition catalogue for the similarly-titled exhibition by the National University of Singapore Museum, where Lim was featured. Lim is included in the chapter entitled “The Homeground” as a home-grown artist who developed his craft locally. A small colour reproduction of his “Singapore River” is included, appended by an instructive consideration of his work and visual language juxtaposed with other artists’ impressions of the same subject matter.
Published to accompany the second solo exhibition honouring Lim and organised by Ode to Art, entitled “Black and White”, in 2012, which featured only black-and-white/monochrome works by Lim. Includes an essay by Bridget Tan elaborating on Lim’s career and direction at length, as well as a concise biography and survey of his previous exhibitions. Reproduces the series of black-and-white works mounted as well as a selection of his older pieces.
A secondary companion text published in conjunction to the “Siapa nama kamu” exhibition on Singapore art, one of the cynosures at the National Gallery, that features selected works from the exhibition (see entry above on Low, S. W.). Lim’s “Blacksmith” (1980) is reproduced here in colour.
Exhibition catalogue published in conjunction with the “Infinite Gestures: Recent Paintings by Lim Tze Peng” organised by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute in 2006. Features a comprehensive essay by curator Bridget Tan in English and Simplified Chinese that both provides an introduction to Lim as well as a consideration of his aesthetic sensibilities, particularly with reference to his calligraphic ventures. The works by Lim mounted at the exhibition are reproduced in colour.
- The Society of Chinese Artists. (2003). Nanyangism. Singapore: Author.
Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.959597 NAN
A commemorative showcase of the Nanyang School of art and painting. Lim’s illustration of a tropical river scene is reprinted as a colour plate here.
- The Society of Chinese Artists. (2005). New Era, New Directions. Singapore: Author.
Call no.: RSING Chinese q759.95957 NEW or RART Chinese q759.95957 NEW
Published to commemorate the Society of Chinese Artists’ 70th anniversary, this text includes a select list of exhibitions Lim participated in as well as a reading list of resources on him.
Bilingual exhibition catalogue published in conjunction with the 1998 Singapore Art Museum (SAM)-convened exhibition titled “Meeting Places in Fleeting Spaces”. Includes several essays, in both English and Simplified Chinese, that examine Lim and his artistic production at length; of particular note is curator Bridget Tan’s essay that evaluates selected works featured at the exhibition. The mounted pieces are reproduced as full-colour plates here and organised thematically, such as “Still Lifes and Abstract Compositions,” “Old Singapore,” and “Rivers of Life.”
- Tan, B. T. (Ed.). (2014). Lim Tze Peng in Bali. Singapore: Dominic Press.
Call no.: RSING 759.95957074 TAN
Features multiple full-colour plates of Lim’s works that visually represent and configure Bali, Indonesia, prefaced by Bridget Tan’s bilingual preamble that conjuectures at length how Lim’s Balinese sojourns has informed, imparted, and (re)shaped his visual vocabulary and artistic direction.
- Tan, B. T. (Ed.). (2006). Lim Tze Peng in Paris. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
Call no.: RSING 759.95957 TZE
Bilingual text (English and Simplified Chinese) published in conjunction with the exhibition held at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in June 2006; includes full-colour reproductions of the Lim works mounted.
This book, divided into 11 sections, introduces the reader to the different periods of Lim Tze Peng’s artistic career, the major themes of his artworks and the style that he adopted. Images of his works accompany each essay and facilitate the reader’s appreciation of his works. A timeline of Lim as an artist and photographs of him painting are included, providing a good overview of his artistic career.
Exhibition catalogue for the 2008 Art Retreat-convened exhibition, “Inroads: Lim Tze Peng’s New Ink Work”, held at the Nanyang Technological University. Features bilingual foreword by Kwok Kian Woon and two other essays on his artistic development and tropes. Includes full-colour plate reproductions of the 40 ink and calligraphic works exhibited.
A chapbook-like exhibition catalogue of philanthropist Daniel Teo’s private collection of some 28 works by Lim, several of which were collectively mounted as a solo exhibition celebrating Lim at Teo’s Private Museum; Teo’s collection, reproduced in full colour here, is relatively modest but comprehensive in its heterogeneity.
A bilingual catalogue (English and Simplified Chinese) showcasing some 132 early works, reprinted in full colour, by Lim as consolidated by the Friends of Lim Tze Peng society to recognise and honour Lim’s artistic legacy and centrality in Singapore’s cultural development, particularly in his function as chronicler of local history. Each chapter is inaugurated by a propaedeutic introduction that heavily features interview excerpts.
Published to commemorate Lim Tze Peng’s 100th birthday, this book traces important developments in Lim’s art from his early beginnings, as well as different aspects of his works, such as paintings on Singapore landscapes and trees and calligraphic works. There are chapters on Lim’s personal values and Woon’s critique on 10 artworks chosen by the artist. Besides interviews with Lim and descriptions of important life events, the book also incorporates the views and comments of art collectors, artists, curators and gallerists with Lim, providing an all-embracing picture of Lim, the man and the artist.
(listed in alphabetical order)
A special focus on Lim’s Chinese-ink “A Street Scene” (1979) with reference to his artist’s statement. The work in question is reproduced in black-and-white here.
Announces Lim’s intention to gift 231 of his works to the Singapore Art Museum, which officially took place during the inauguration of his exhibition in December 2003. A black-and-white photograph of Lim with one of his works is included.
- Cheah, U.-H. (2003, December 27). Brush with the past. The Business Times (Singapore), p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Reviews the nostalgic impulse that undergirds Lim’s art as well as the donation of a number of his works by his patron, Mr. and Mrs. Koh Seow Chuan, to the Singapore Art Museum, which now constitutes an exhibition in honour of Lim. Includes a detail from a Lim work representing Singapore’s street scene, reprinted in black-and-white.
- Cheah, U.-H. (2012, July 6). Black-and-white flourish. The Business Times (Singapore), p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Introduces Lim and his artistic career, with a special focus on his predilection for monochrome tones and black-and-white aesthetics.
- Cheah, U.-H. (2015, October 9). Master strokes. The Business Times (Singapore), p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Highlights the works that will be mounted at Lim’s solo exhibition entitled “Impressions by Lim Tze Peng”, which was to coincide with his birthday celebrations. Also notes his focus on abstract calligraphy.
Reports that four Cultural Medallion awardees, including Lim, will receive a grant under the Grant Scheme made official in 2000 to fund new projects that would enrich Singapore’s cultural and artistic heritage.
Reviews Lim’s exhibition at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute in July 2006, calling attention to his artistic tropes and motifs in particular, and includes quotes from various artist friends of Lim who identify that the latter’s work orchestrates a convergence between the painting and calligraphic art traditions.
Announces Lim’s new solo exhibition entitled “Tze Peng in Bali”, which showcases his series of works that elect as their subject matter Bali, Indonesia, as well as a brief introduction of his creative process.
Reports on Lim’s new artistic direction in developing what he christens, hutuzi (muddled calligraphy), of which 30 works demonstrating these sensibilities was to be mounted at an exhibition sponsored by four of his patrons.
Elaborates on Lim’s development and maturation as a celebrated artist recognised for his innovative artistic strategies from initial self-doubt and hesitation; broadcasts the exhibition at Spink Gallery in 1998.
Reports on how Lim transitioned into a full-time career as an artist as well as his motivations for his works—primarily the compulsion to immortalise local heritage endangered by the mechanisms of modernity—on the occasion of his 1995 exhibition entitled “Moments by Lim Tze Peng”. Includes a black-and-white photograph of Lim with one of his visual representations of 1980s Johore Street.
Reporting on Lim Tze Peng receiving the Meritorious Service Medal, this article provides a brief biography of the artist and updates on his activities, such as the donation of his paintings to his alma mater in 2014 and a retrospective exhibition in September 2016.
Reports on Lim’s current shift in primary artistic focus to calligraphy, or rather, his reinvention/appropriation of the tradition, which is showcased at the “Tze Peng: Songs from the Heart” exhibition.
- Mak, M. S. (2003, October 4). A stroke of genius. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Broadcasts the donation of some 150 Lim works by Lim’s patron, renowned Singaporean architect and philanthropist Koh Seow Chuan, to the Singapore Art Museum.
A review of the Singapore Art Museum’s solo exhibition featuring Lim’s works entitled “Meeting Places in Fleeting Spaces: The Art of Lim Tze Peng”. Includes quotes from Lim himself on his artistic motivations and creative trajectory.
- Oon, C. (2003, September 27). Humble roots. The Straits Times, p. 3-4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Special report on Lim after he was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2003. Provides a concise yet comprehensive introduction to Lim’s artistic career, the motifs and tropes that dominate his works, and the philosophies that inform his creative approach.
- Sabapathy, T. K. (1991, February 1). Strength in modesty. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
A review of Lim’s 1991 exhibition at the National Museum Art Gallery, entitled “Lim Tze Peng: Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy” that provocatively juxtaposes Lim’s exhibition with Giorgio Morandi’s 1968 London exhibition. Calls attention in particular to Lim’s nuances and judicious deployment of colour, space, and dimension.
- Seah, L. (2004, September 26). A gift of love. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Reports on Lim’s relationship with his artworks and his donation of more than 200 of his paintings to the Singapore Art Museum. A black-and-white photograph of Lim in his studio is included.
Announces Lim’s first overseas solo exhibition in Beijing and Shanghai in 2009. Reports on how the traveling exhibition came into being and the series of ink works that would be mounted. Two of the displayed works are reproduced in colour along with a colour byline photograph of Lim.
A report on Lim’s Chinese-ink-and-colour “Singapore River Scene” (1978) which fetched HK$620,000 (S$101,800)—far surpassing its original estimate—at a Christie’s auction, a record price for a living Singaporean artist as at May 2012, and the first Singaporean work to cross the $100,000 mark at an auction.
Broadcasts Lim’s win of a special prize for his painting of Bali at the 1977 Commonwealth Art Exhibition sponsored by the Royal Overseas League of London; he was the only Singaporean to receive a prize.
An elaborate and comprehensive illumination of Lim’s development as an artist, including his career highs and lows.
Announces the awardees of the 2003 Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s most prestigious award for the arts, of which Lim was one of the recipients. Includes a photograph of Lim with his fellow winners.
A critical appraisal and evaluation of Lim’s artistic merits with particular reference to four works that are mounted and for sale at the “Moments by Lim Tze Peng” solo exhibition at the Takashimaya Department Store in 1995.
A report on Lim’s 2011 solo exhibition, entitled “Old and New”, which charts and scrutinises the development and maturation of Lim’s artistic career and aesthetics, including his relatively recent sustained ventures into a reinvented Chinese calligraphic tradition.
(listed in alphabetical order)
- ArtSafe. (n.d.). Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from the ArtSafe Art Gallery website:
Provides a biographical timeline of Lim’s career milestones and notable events as an artist, as well as digital images of the Lim works in the ArtSafe collection available for sale.
- Artsy. (2016, January 12). Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from the Artsy website:
Online repository of colour images of 103 calligraphic and ink works by Lim, including their current location (private collections or galleries) as well as their auction prices. Also provides a brief overview and biographical sketch of the artist.
- ArtyiiPerspective. (2010, December 15). Lim Tze Peng – Singapore’s national living treasure. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from YouTube:
Short video clip of a conference commemorating Lim’s first traveling exhibition in China; includes speeches by Lim and his wife.
- Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery. (n.d.). Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery website:
This webpage provides a brief artist’s biography and major key events in his life and career and links to images to 10 of his representative pictorial and calligraphic works, and features photographs of Lim at various arts event and videos on Lim.
- The Esplanade. (2012, October 12). Tribute.sg – Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved from YouTube:
Short four-minute interview with Lim, where Lim introduces himself and elaborates on his creative process and the refinement of his artistic sensibilities.
- National Library Board. (2008). Lim Tze Peng, written by Wang, Zineng. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from Singapore Infopedia.
An Infopedia article that concisely chronicles Lim’s early life and works in the form of a chronological timeline, as well as major exhibitions held and awards received. A colour photograph of Lim is also included.
- Ode to Art. (n.d.). Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from Ode to Art website:
An artist’s page by Ode to Art gallery, this website features Lim Tze Peng’s biography, listings of his exhibitions, publications, clippings and videos on Lim Tze Peng, images of Lim’s paintings and a virtual exhibition of Lim’s works, “A Century of Memories”.
- The Private Museum. (2013). Lim Tze Peng: A private collection (23rd Jan – 10th Mar 2013). Retrieved June 25, 2021, from The Private Museum website:
Online exhibition site for the Private Museum’s 2013 exhibition on Lim. Includes a short essay by Sze Wee Low, digital images of the 14 Lim works mounted, relevant press releases, and an artist’s biography.
- TributeSG. (n.d.). Lim Tze Peng. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from the Esplanade website:
Features a comprehensive and detailed biography of Lim, along with several images of his artworks and the artist himself, as well as a YouTube video of TributeSG’s interview with Lim.
(listed in alphabetical order)
16-minute video chronicling Lim’s artistic development and refinement, creative process, governing philosophies, and visual vocabularies. Commentaries by fellow artist Ho Chee Lick and patron Koh Seow Chuan are included as well.
Interview in Chinese where Lim elaborates on how his consistent involvement in the visual arts, including his championing of art during his tenure in the education service. Lim also opines on his then-preference for oil painting, the possible directions that the artistic circle in Singapore can undertake, and the fundamental principles that an artist should abide to. Transcripts in Chinese available.
(listed in alphabetical order)
Banyan tree. (1995), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2007). Retrieved June 25, 2021, from PictureSG.
Junction: Circular road and canton road. (1975), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2007). Retrieved June 25, 2021, from PictureSG.
Lim Tze Peng: Half-length portrait. (2002–2006), [Image of photograph], [Online]. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from PictureSG.
River Seine. (2000), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2007). Retrieved June 25, 2021, from PictureSG.
Singapore River. (198–), [Image of painting], [Online]. (2007). Retrieved June 25, 2021, from PictureSG.
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