Family Portraits (Week 6 Journal)

When it comes to family portraits, I always imagine the the awkward posing in front of the camera, the need to wear what and pose  would seem the most picture perfect in that moment to capture the most ‘perfect’ looking family.

The modern day famous family portraits tend to be of celebrity families such as the Kardashians, which have recently gotten a massive spread in Cosmo magazine. They are famous for, honestly, nothing very substantial except for being dysfunctional and rich.

Family of Queen Victoria, 1846, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Oil on Canvas

I guess nothing much has changed from the past as most famous family portraits are commissioned by rich patrons as in the past, in order to commission such pieces, I believe, cost a lot of money considering the amount of skill required to capture such detail.

If I were to take a family portrait now, considering it is much cheaper to do so, I think it would be fun to try to emulate portraits of the past in modern day settings. At the same time, I think it would be rather interesting to have what you would call a modern day family portrait, but have it painted in a classical style. I think that would be pretty cool. middleton-family-portraits-042I mean, can you imagine sitting like this for hours on end to be painted? I think that would be pretty funny but also very antagonising. 8)

Labour (Week 5 Journal)


When you think about labour, in the context of Singapore, you think about maids and construction workers, when you think about the depiction of labourers in art pieces, you think about the very clear depiction of these workers, of them being in the foreground.

However, I think that images that show labourers in the background tend to have a greater impact on me that those that show them in the background. Why? Because it shows the reality of their social status in comparison to those that they work for. For example, the piece I have decided to talk about in this entry is Marriage A-la-Mode 4, The Toilette by William Hogarth, 1743.

I believe that an image like this, while focusing on the wealthy and their lifestyle, also shows how much their servants (labourers) are ignored, not only by them, but by us, the viewer as well. They are painted in darker tones, with heavier shadows so as to not stand in the “same light” as their superiors. They also show no engagement in the social works depicted in the image. They are simply serving with no acknowledgement from anyone.

Individual Object Label and Wall Text


View of Spring Gardens

Hong Kong, 20th August 1846

Painting by Murdoch Bruce, lithograph by A. Maclure


This painting by Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure depicts a scene in 19th Century Hong Kong. Initially, it is difficult to tell that this piece of work is portraying a garden in Hong Kong, but through the smallest of indicators, we are given insight into where this is and the social dynamics of the time.

As the British had taken full control of Hong Kong Island after the First Opium War in 1841, the British had immense influence on the art and architecture of Hong Kong. Being the colonisers, that also meant that the British were seen as being of a higher social and economic status as compared to the Chinese locals.

To see the heavy influence that the British had on the architecture, we can take reference to the painting by Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure. In this painting, the buildings take on a more European style and is lacking in traditional Chinese architecture. The roofs are simple and flat, having no roof ornaments such as lions and dragons, which are often associated with Chinese architecture. In addition, there is a use of columns, which has its origins in ancient Greece.

Besides the architecture, there is a heavy presence of the British colonisers, as artists at the time preferred to focus mainly on the foreign occupants. The foreigners are depicted as wealthy, being dressed in elaborate pieces of clothing. The women are seen wearing long and decorated dresses that are tapered at the waist to accentuate their figures and are seen adorning large and curly hairstyles. The local women depicted in the painting are depicted as being of a lower socio-economic status. Unlike their colonisers, they wear simple clothing and have their hair tied back in a simple bun.

The men are depicted in a similar way whereby the British men are wearing long coats and top hats while the local men are in traditional Chinese clothing and have their hair tied back in a plaid and have their head shaven. In addition, we can see in the painting that the British are seen as superior to the locals as there is a local Hong Kong man “kowtow”-ing to the foreigners. (To “kowtow” means to bow in respect to one’s superiors)

Mapping Asia Project Main Wall Text

Mapping Asia

“The British Empire was often described as “the empire on which the Sun never sets” when it was at its peak. This was due to the extensiveness of the empire which stretched across the globe in the form of dominions, colonies, protectorates, and various other territories under British rule.

In this exhibit, we will be looking at the art pieces that have emerged from the British colonies in Asia during the 19th Century, and how the art pieces reflect the colonial rule and influence during this time.

At the beginning of the British expansion into Asia, the British were faced with immense odds, arriving in Asia much later than the other European powers such as the Portuguese and the Dutch. However, this did not stop them from claiming territories as their own, including taking over other European colonies. The East India Company that settled in India had trouble finding its footing, due to an already well established Dutch East India Trading Company. However in 1757, the British East Indian Company had dominions in India surrendered to them, establishing a strong British presence in India.

The British continued expanding their trade routes and their empire by going further east, eventually arriving in Burma. At the end of the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, which ended with British victors, the British were ceded several Burmese territories, and by 1885, the British gained full control of all Burmese territories and made Burma a Province of British India.

Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, and on behalf of the British East India Company, developed the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. However in 1824, the entire island of Singapore became a British possession, eventually becoming part of the Straits Settlements in 1826.

After establishing British Malaya, Britain had access to the Straits of Malacca, a maritime gateway to China. While initially just being a trading port, after the mass destruction of over 20,000 chests of opium, the First Opium War was declared by the British. After several Chinese defeats, the British occupied Hong Kong Island in 1841.”