Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Portrait of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Portrait of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

This study of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who served as the 4th and 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, highlights the significance of commissioned portraits in Hoessein Enas’ practice. Many of the completed paintings today belong to private collections of important figures and personalities that colour Malaysia’s political landscape. Portraiture was also gaining popularity among the growing middle classes. Hoessein Enas kept many of the preparatory sketches he made before executing the commissioned portraits in oil. These works reflect an artistic mind that is attentive to detail and provide glimpses of the intimate moment of encounter between the artist and his sitter.

Pencil on paper
38 x 28cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Hoessein Enas
About Hoessein Enas

Hoessein Enas (1924 - 1995) came to Malaya from Indonesia in 1947. His artistic stature as a portrait painter in the academic realist style grew in prominence following Malaya’s independence in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963, a country he came to identify as home. In 1956, he was the founding member of Angkatan Pelukis Semenanjung which was an important force in the development of artistic activity in the country around Independence. In 1963, Shell Ltd. commissioned him to travel throughout the country to produce a series of drawings and paintings to commemorate the formation of Malaysia. In 1990, Hoessein Enas was conferred ‘Royal Portrait Painter’ status by HRH The Sultan of Selangor.

Further Readings

  • Dato’ Hoessein Enas: From His Personal Collection, Rahel Joseph and Nur Hanim Khairuddin, eds., Kuala Lumpur: ILHAM, 2015.

  • Menemui Moderniti: 40 tahun Angkatan Pelukis Se-Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur: Balai Seni Lukis Negara, 1998.

  • Tan Chee Khuan, The Life and Art of Dato’ M. Hoessein Enas, Penang Art Gallery, 1999.

Learning Section

  • Politicians, leaders and important people love to have portraits made, either standing in a posed photograph or painted by a leading artist. Why do you think this is? Is it better to have your portrait painted or a professional photograph taken? Why?

  • Do you think Tun Mahathir Mohamad will have been happy with this portrait? Why? Do you think he chose to pose in this way, wearing these clothes or was that decision made by the artist? What do his clothes and pose tell us about the person in the painting?  What kind of relationship do you think he had with the artist?