Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Brown Madonna
Brown Madonna

In this painting, a dream-like figure of a woman sits in repose, in quiet dignity. As alluded to by the painting’s title Brown Madonna, there is a divinity about her,  she evokes the idea of a benevolent earth mother, in harmony with nature and her environment. The Madonna's ‘phoenix’ eyes give her an air of detachment  and unknowability, a style first popularised by Cheong Soo Pieng, the artist’s mentor at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). The Brown Madonna represents the archetype of the graceful, nubile woman of the tropics, one that has captured the imagination of many Nanyang artists.

Oil on canvas
32 × 32 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Khoo Sui Hoe
About Khoo Sui Hoe

Khoo Sui Hoe (b. 1939, Kedah) studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from 1959–61 under the tutelage of pioneering Nanyang artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen. In 1974, he was awarded the John D. Rockefeller Grant to study at the Pratt Graphics Center in New York. In 1982, he and his family permanently settled in America. Throughout his long career, Sui Hoe has exhibited his work extensively, including at the National Gallery of Bangkok, Thailand (1997); the Las Vegas Art Museum, U.S. (2002; 2004); and the Shanghai Art Museum, China (2005). His work is scattered across the world in various private and institutional collections, including those of the National Art Gallery, the Singapore Art Museum, and the National Art Gallery of Victoria. 

Further Readings
  • Khai, Lee, ed. The Painted World of Khoo Sui Hoe. Penang: Penang State Museum & Art Gallery, 2007.

  • Austin Coates, Ten Years: An Appreciation. Khoo Sui-Ho: Lukisan 1963-73. Kuala Lumpur: Samat Art Gallery, 1974.

  • Damrong Wong-Uparaj, Khoo Sui Ho and His Paintings. Khoo Sui Ho: Heads and Masks. Bangkok: The National Gallery, 1997.

Learning Section
  • Describe the woman in the painting. What age is she? How is she posed? What is she thinking? What details has the artist included in the painting? What has he not included? How has the artist used colour in the painting? What colours dominate? What is the overall mood of the painting?