01 Aug 2016
Collection & Artist Series

Launching: The William Farquhar Collection

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The collection, comprising of 477 intricate drawings of the flora and fauna in the Malay Peninsula, were commissioned by William Farquhar during his service as the British Resident and Commandant of Melaka (1803-1818).

Farquhar was very fond of nature. In a time where photography was non-existent, the only means to capture nature was through painting. He commissioned Chinese artists which combined Chinese and Western painting methods to coincide with the European flair; resulting in a charming mix of two different traditions.

This set of drawings travelled with Farquhar throughout his tenure in the Malay Peninsula. After his tenure in Singapore he donated the entire collection to the Royal Asiatic Society in London.

In 1993, it was put up for auction at Sotheby’s, where it was purchased by Mr GK Goh, who then donated the entire collection to the National Museum of Singapore, where the artworks are showcased for public viewing.

The William Farquhar Collection by Qua features 4 selected artworks from the collection of natural history drawings — Blue-winged Pitta, Slow Loris, Black-naped Oriole and the Dark-handed Gibbon.


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Blue-winged Pitta: This colorful resident of Southeast Asia and Malaysia is an uncommon visitor to Singapore. It is often foraging for earthworms and snails in the leaf litter, but can also be perched on low trees such as the wild mangosteen tree depicted in the drawing.

From its perch, it can be heard delivering its loud fluty double-whistle.

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Slow Loris: This well-loved, large-eyed, solitary primate is extremely rare in Singapore due to habitat loss and poaching. Once common in the 19th century, sightings in Singapore are now likely of escapees from captivity.

Mainly nocturnal, it moves very slowly but assuredly through rainforest trees looking for soft fruit, nectar, tree sap and insects.

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Black-naped Oriole: The black-naped oriole is an attractive resident throughout Southeast Asia. Although common in Singapore today, especially in parklands, it was rare in Farquhar’s time.

Orioles build hanging, pouch-like nests of grass, twigs and roots, beneath and between small treetop branches. Its liquid four-note whistle is used both when perched and in flight.

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Dark-handed Gibbon: Farquhar was known to have kept gibbons, so this drawing might have taken place in his own residence in Melaka.

The dark-handed gibbon, pictured here hanging off a mangosteen tree, occurs mainly in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. It is an endangered species as a result of losses of its forest habitat.

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