Richard Walker: An Overview


Scholars Programme

Richard Walker arrived in 1923 and was appointed Art Master of Government English Schools. Reporting on incidental cases of art activities within the formal educational system, he acknowledged that a handful of students was being prepared for art papers in the Cambridge junior and senior examinations. However, he also noted that they were not receiving adequate instruction, Walkers official role in Singapore thus appeared to be that of fulfilling a requirement of the education system rather than taking the initiative as a British administrator actively participate in the local art practice. But Walker personally regarded the purpose of art education to be "the training of observation, building up of a retentive memory, stimulation of imagination and cultivation of taste," and once wrote that he felt alone in his dreams in disseminating these aesthetic values.

Walker's own art education was in mural painting at the Royal College of Art. He also studied craft subjects including pottery, stained glass, woodcarving, metalwork, enamelling, calligraphy and illumination. His Self Portrait was probably painted in the 1930s.

Clarity of subject and sometimes allegorical rendition of figuration in the muralist tradition are often reflected in Walker's work. His landscapes, like Malay Kampung and Kusu Island, are naturalistic and sensitive renditions of local scenery.

From 1937, Walker's designation was charged to Art Superintendent Singapore Schools. He organised and taught art classes at the Raffies Institution for art teachers and interested students. That year, the St. Andrew's School Sketching Club was formed, its establishment no doubt influenced by the school principal, Francis Thomas, who was also active in art education. In 1938, Walker taught art to nor-English speakers (mainly Malay teachers) for the first time.

Watercolour was the key medium taught in the art classes of the British colonial school system. Richard Walker taught it at Raffles Institution while the sketching dub of St. Andrew's School also used the medium under the encouragement of Francis Thomas.

-- Channels & Confluences, chapter 10.



Kwok Kian Chow. Channels & Confluences: A History of Singapore Art. Singapore: National Heritage Board/Singapore Art Museum, 1996

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Last updated: April 2000