Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Untitled (Malaysians - The Shell Commission)
Untitled (Malaysians - The Shell Commission)

In 1963, Shell Malaysia Ltd. decided to publish a special book entitled ‘MALAYSIANS’, to mark the formation of Malaysia. Hoessein Enas was commissioned to do a series of paintings in oil, watercolour and pastel, some 52 in all, illustrating the peoples of Malaysia. It was a commission that took him seven months to complete. The series features a cross-section of Malaysian society, from individuals expressing the multicultural ethos of the country to figures representing modern institutions of the state such as the police force. This selection of preparatory sketches recovers the importance of the commission in the history of Malaysian art. Collectively, they mirror the ambitions and hopes of a new and inclusive nation.

Pencil on paper
35 x 25 cm
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.

Learning Section
  • The text tells us that this was part of a commission for the Shell Company in 1963 called Malaysians. The artist tried to document the people of Malaysia as a way of celebrating the founding of the nation. The series was commissioned in 1963. How has Malaysia changed in the last 60 years? How have Malaysians changed? What has stayed the same? Who would you paint today to represent the changes that occurred to Malaysia since its foundation?

  • Is this drawing finished? Do you think the artist intended it to be exhibited in a gallery? What was his purpose in making the drawing? Should galleries exhibit artist's preparatory work or should they only exhibit finished pieces?