VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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National Language Class
P-0145
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

One of Chua Mia Tee's most iconic images, “National Language Class” captures a moment that reveals an important stage of Singapore’s history. Painted in 1959 when the artist was a member of the Equator Art Society, this work is charged with nationalist sentiment and commemorates Singapore’s long-awaited attainment of self-governance in the same year. National Language Class depicts a group of Chinese students learning Malay, the newly designated national language of Singapore. According to the artist’s recollection, the portrait above the blackboard was intended to be of Yusof Ishak, appointed as Singapore’s first president (Yang di-Pertuan Negara) on 3rd December 1959.

History of the Object
Not only do many of Chua’s works have artistic and aesthetic appeal, they also serve as historical documents. Chua believes the combination of art and history is made possible only by the Realist style, for “only when a piece of work possesses the truth of reality does it have historical value.”

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Type
Painting 
Materials
Oil on canvas 
Measurements
H: 112 W: 153 cm 
Creator name
Chua Mia Tee 
Creator date
1931 
Where it was made
Singapore 
Geography
Singapore 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
20th Century; 1959 
Function
Art Work 
Acquisition
This is a donation from Equator Art Society to Singapore Art Museum.  
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Singapore Art Museum 
Museum
Singapore Art Museum 
Credit line
Donated by Equator Art Society  

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