Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Children Swimming with Hollow Bamboos
Children Swimming with Hollow Bamboos

A group of children have fun swimming together with the aid of buoyant bamboo canes in this painting by pioneering Malaysian modern artist Yong Mun Sen. The artist has depicted this picturesque scene with the carefree, flowing brushstrokes and light harmonious colours that are the hallmarks of his style.  Mun Sen often went on painting excursions into the countryside, capturing fleeting moments such as this. His works offered a more intimate insight into the daily life of local people, countering the more naturalistic and academic depictions of Malaya that were being produced by British colonialists at the same time.

Watercolour on paper
46.5 x 59 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Yong Mun Sen
About Yong Mun Sen

Yong Mun Sen (18961962) was one of the earliest modern artists in Malaysia. Born in Kuching, Sarawak, he was later sent to Dabu county in Guangdong Province, China, to study Chinese ink painting and calligraphy. Upon his return to British Malaya, he spent a few years travelling between Singapore and Penang. In Penang, he opened what was likely the first photo studio on the island, Tai Koon Art Studio on Chulia Street, and founded one of the island’s earliest art societies, the Penang Chinese Art Club. Later, in Singapore, he had a hand in founding the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1938. He has come to be known mostly for his plein-air watercolour paintings of the scenic beauty and charm of Penang’s coastal life. Over the years, he has been honoured with a few retrospective exhibitions in the Penang State Art Museum and Gallery and the National Gallery of Malaysia. 

Further Readings

Learning Section

  • Imagine you are with the boys in this picture. What noises would you hear? What smells would you notice? Do you picture yourself sitting on the rock or in the water? Why? If you are in the water, how does it feel? Is it warm or cold? What time of day is it? What emotions are you feeling?

  • This painting was painted in the early 20th century. If you were to paint a group of children playing together today, how would it be different from this image? What elements would be the same? In what ways have the lives of children improved? What has been lost?