Chen Wen Hsi

6) The artist of the 50 dollars note

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There is a pair of gibbons on the back of Singapore 50 dollars note.  The gibbons are there not only to beautify the note but they also signify a great artist who contributed his entire whole life to the art world.

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陈文希, Chen Wen Hsi, was born in China, Guangdong province.  He migrated to Singapore in 1948 and passed on in 1992.  He loves art and nature at a young age.  He grown up in a suburb village and was taught by renowned artists like Pan Tianshou in Xinhua College of Arts in Shanghai, China.

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Chen was proficient both in traditional Chinese ink paint and western oil paint.  He focuses in observing the behavior of nature and animals.  The subject varies from landscapes, figures, birds to animals.  He has a penchant for gibbons and owned 6 of them.  One white, one gray and four black ones.  These beautiful animals gave him the opportunities to study the creature’s postures and its characteristics.

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In 1975, Chen was conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the then-Chancellor of the University of Singapore and the then-President of Singapore, Mr Benjamin Sheares.  He earned many more titles like Public Service Star; Cultural & Communications Award just to name a few.

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Chen was also a perfectionist to his own art works.  While he was insistant to leave the best on earth, he burnt away paintings he deemed not up to his standard.  A rigorous artist, he woke up early in the morning at 6am to do his paintings without a skip for many decades.

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So the next time, if you happen to hold on to a Singapore 50 dollars note, just spare some time to say hello to these gibbons and the great artist before you pass it on to another!