Earl Lu



Earl Lu Ming Teh (Dr) (b. 15 September 1925, Hong Kong–d. 2 September 2005, Pisa, Italy), was considered one of Singapore’s most prominent art patrons and philanthropists.1 A medical surgeon by profession, Lu was a keen art collector and served on several institutional boards to help promote visual arts and art education in Singapore.2 An artist in his own right, Lu was known for his paintings of roses which he often presented for sale at fundraising exhibitions.3

Early life
Lu was the only son of four children. His father was a banker and mother a homemaker.4 Lu spent his childhood in several places: Hong Kong; Klang, Malaysia; Shanghai, China; and Singapore. When Lu came to Singapore at age 13, he studied at St Andrew’s School, but his studies were interrupted by World War II (1942–45).5 Lu subsequently sat for his GCE ‘O’ levels in India, where he and his family had fled to by boat, two weeks before Singapore fell to the Japanese.6

Medical career
In 1952, Lu graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree from the University of Sydney in Australia. In 1961, he become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (in England and Edinburgh) and in 1962, a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore.7 He moved into private practice when Yeoh Ghim Seng invited him to join his medical practice in the 1960s.8 Apart from his practice as a general surgeon, Lu lectured part-time at the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore) for 26 years, and volunteered at St Andrew’s Mission Hospital for many years.9 In his mid-40s, Lu joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as a volunteer and helped set up the first SAF field hospital.10 According to the eulogy delivered by Prof Tommy Koh at Lu’s memorial service in 2005, Lu was the first surgeon to perform an operation at the field hospital in 1974.11

Quest for art
Aside from his surgical skills, Lu was known for his love of the visual arts. He was an avid collector of Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics and paintings, having already started collecting art as a student, although all he could afford then were prints and photographs. His appreciation of fine art started early, as a child living in a home surrounded by Chinese porcelain and brush paintings that both his father and grandfather had collected.12 Lu knew that these antique heirlooms would be his one day, so he started learning painting in 1956 to understand and deserve this inheritance. He engaged Singaporean pioneer artist Chen Wen Hsi as his tutor.13

Lu was not known to hoard his art  collections and most were donated to various institutions, including the National University of Singapore Museum, LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts and the Asian Civilisations Museum. Of note is his valuable 200-piece collection of Southeast Asian pottery dating from the 9th to 15th centuries, which he donated entirely to the Singapore Art Museum in the 1990s.14 He also donated key artworks by Singapore’s pioneer artists to LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts (now known as LASALLE College of the Arts) in 1986, and continued to be involved with the institution as it grew over the next two decades.15 The college named the art gallery housing these artworks the Earl Lu Gallery in honour of his donation, which provided the foundation for the development of the college’s art collection.16

Lu was equally generous with his knowledge of art: as founding chairman of the Singapore Art Museum, his foresight led to the museum acquiring many 20th-century Southeast Asian works.17 According to Koh, this collection may have become the largest among the world’s museums at the time of Lu’s passing.18 For his services to the nation, Lu was appointed a justice of the peace in 1989, and received the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in the 1995 National Day Awards.19

Lu gave up his surgical practice in 2003 but passed away soon after. He had fallen ill on a painting trip to Italy and died of pneumonia, 13 days shy of his 80th birthday.20

Medical appointments21
Houseman, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

Medical officer (tuberculosis), Chest Hospital, Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia.
Lecturer in anatomy and embryology surgery, University of Sydney, Australia.
Lecturer, anatomy department, University of Malaysia, Singapore.
Lecturer in physiology for candidates of the Royal College of Surgeons of Australia, Singapore.
External examiner in anatomy and physiology, National University of Singapore.
Consultant surgeon, Yeoh Clinic, Singapore.
Consultant surgeon, Earl Lu Clinic, Singapore.

Positions
1967–1972:
Trustee, National Theatre Trust.22

1972–1973: President, Society of Chinese Artists.23
1972–1978: Member, Singapore Medical Council.24
1972–1991: Volunteer medical officer with the SAF, retiring as lieutenant-colonel.25
1976: Honorary president, Society of Chinese Artists.26
1984–1986: President, Southeast Asian Ceramic Society.27
1989–: Justice of the Peace.28
1992–1999: Founding chairman, Singapore Art Museum.29
2003: Member, LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts board of directors.30
1994–2000: Arts advisor, National Arts Council.
2000–2005: Chairman, Istana Art Collection Advisory Committee.31

Awards32
1985: Commendation Medal (Military Gold).
1986: LaSalle-SIA Award for Distinguished Service to Arts Education.
1995: Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star).
1997: Montblanc de la Culture award.

Selected exhibitions
1971: Fundraising exhibition at Victoria Memorial Hall for St Andrew’s Hospital.33
1991: Days of Wine and Roses fundraiser at Allan Art Gallery, Singapore, for Ayer Rajah Day Care Centre.34
1992: An exhibition of paintings by Sir Roy Calne and Dr Earl Lu at Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, for the Liver Transplantation Programme in Cambridge and in Singapore.35
1994: Rhythm & Vitality Art Exhibition and Sale, Empress Place Art Gallery, Singapore, for the Asian Women’s Welfare Association Teach Me programme.36
1998: Exhibition at Alliance Francaise du Singapour.37
2001: Father and Son, an exhibition of paintings by Dr Earl Lu and Paul Lu at Alliance Francaise de Singapour for the Alliance Francaise Building Fund.38
2002: A Feminine Rose exhibition at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur.39
2005: Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the Golden Mean, posthumous tribute exhibition at Art Forum Gallery, Singapore.40

Family41
Wife: Norma Phyllis Yin, a Chinese Australian.
Sons: Mark, Paul, Peter and Stephen.
Grandchildren: Shawn, Anne Marie, James, Ellen and Timothy.



Author

Alicia Yeo



References
1. Lu, P. (2005, October). A tribute to Earl Lu. SMA News, 37(10), 49–51. (Call no.: RSING 610.95957 SMAN); Chew, D. (2005, September 9). Farewell, old friend. Today, p. 60. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, pp. 45–46. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU)
3. Li, S. (1992, April 30). Coming up roses. The Straits Times, p. 12; Hong, X. (2005, September 9). Lu’s roses live onThe Straits Times, p. 4; Yeo, K. S. (1989, July 30). Roses are red… and pink, purple and blue. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Hong, X. (2005, September 9). Lu’s roses live onThe Straits Times, p. 4; Cheong, C. (1992, November 15). The world, his classroomThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Pereira, G. (1989, September 10). Where brush and scalpel meetThe Straits Times, p. 23; Cheong, C. (1992, November 15). The world, his classroomThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Cheong, C. (1992, November 15). The world, his classroomThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Pereira, G. (1989, September 10). Where brush and scalpel meetThe Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Medical and Health Services Directory. (2000). Singapore: Nexus Information Sources, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 362.10255957 MHSD-[DIR]); Lee, L. C. (Interviewer). (1996, May 15). Oral history interview with Earl Lu [MP3 recording no. 001752/10/1]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
8. Lee, L. C. (Interviewer). (1996, May 23). Oral history interview with Earl Lu [MP3 recording no. 001752/10/7]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; President, PM at Dr Yeoh’s funeral. (1993, June 8). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Pereira, G. (1989, September 10). Where brush and scalpel meetThe Straits Times, p. 23; Ho, J. (1997, March 18). If you look at prices, you’re looking at wrong thingsThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU)
10. 130 help to set up first field hospital. (1980, March 26). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T., & Dunlop, P. K. G. (Eds.). (2000). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 175. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
11. Koh, T. (2013). A tribute to Earl Lu. In T. Koh, The Tommy Koh reader: Favourite essays and lectures (pp. 464–467). Singapore: World Scientific, p. 465. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 KOH)
12. Nayar, P. (1999, September 24). Love it, and pass it onThe Business Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Tsang, S. (1992, January 18). Private practices. The Business Times, p. 21; Nayar, P. (2005, September 9). Painter and patron of Singapore arts Earl Lu dies, aged 80The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Ho, J. (1997, March 18). If you look at prices, you’re looking at wrong thingsThe Straits Times, p. 2; Nayar, P. (2005, September 9). Painter and patron of Singapore arts Earl Lu dies, aged 80The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Nayar, P. (2005, September 9). Painter and patron of Singapore arts Earl Lu dies, aged 80The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Merewether, C. (Ed.). (2012). Inside the collection. Singapore: Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, pp. 7–11. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 INS)
16. Jin, S. (2009). Reconnecting the past: Notes on an art collection. In The next chapter: Forays into Lasalle’s permanent collections (pp. 6–9). Singapore: Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 LAS)
17. National Heritage Board. (1996). 95/96 annual report: National Heritage Board. Singapore: Author, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 363.690605957 SNHBAR-[AH]); Koh, T. (2013). A tribute to Earl Lu. In T. Koh, The Tommy Koh reader: Favourite essays and lectures (pp. 464–467). Singapore: World Scientific, p. 465. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 KOH)
18. Koh, T. (2013). A tribute to Earl Lu. In T. Koh, The Tommy Koh reader: Favourite essays and lectures (pp. 464–467). Singapore: World Scientific, p. 465. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 KOH)
19. Tan, E. S. (1989, June 4). Justices of the Peace to help ease wedding queues. The Straits Times, p. 20; Those honoured this year. (1995, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Koh, T. (2013). A tribute to Earl Lu. In T. Koh, The Tommy Koh reader: Favourite essays and lectures (pp. 464–467). Singapore: World Scientific, p. 464. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 KOH); Hong, X. (2005, September 9). Lu’s roses live onThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU); 130 help to set up first field hospital. (1980, March 26). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, L. C. (Interviewer). (1996, May 23). Oral history interview with Earl Lu [MP3 recording no. 001752/10/7]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
22. National Theatre Trust. (1967). Annual report of the National Theatre Trust 1967. Singapore: Author, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.095957 NTTSAR-[AR]); National Theatre Trust. (1972). National Theatre Trust annual report 1972. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 792.095957 NTTSAR-[AR])
23. Foo, C. S. (1995). Art 60: In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Society of Chinese Artists. Singapore: The Society of Chinese Artists, pp. 23–24. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ART)
24. Three GPs for better balanced medical council. (1972, July 15). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Medical Council. (1979). Singapore Medical Council annual report: 1978. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 610.69095957 SMCAR-[AR])
25. Low, K. T., & Dunlop, P. K. G. (Eds.). (2000). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 175. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU)
26. Foo, C. S. (1995). Art 60: In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Society of Chinese Artists. Singapore: The Society of Chinese Artists, pp. 23–24. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ART)
27. Southeast Asian Ceramic Society. (2015). Past presidents. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from Southeast Asian Ceramic Society website: http://www.seaceramic.org.sg/about/past-presidents/
28. Tan, E. S. (1989, June 4). Justices of the Peace to help ease wedding queues. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU)
29. Singapore leaders mourn Earl Lu’s death. (2005, September 10) The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2000). Annual report 1999/2000. Singapore: Author, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 363.690605957 SNHBAR-[AR])
30. Fly, R. (2004). President’s message. In LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts: Year in review 2003/04 (pp. 2–3). Singapore: LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 700.7105957 LSCAAR-[AR])
31. Singapore leaders mourn Earl Lu’s death. (2005, September 10) The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Chin, M. (2005). Earl Lu @ 80: Beyond the golden mean. Singapore: Art Forum, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 759.5957 LU); Lu’s roses live onThe Straits Times, p. 4; Those honoured this year. (1995, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 18; Dr Earl Lu, associate. (1998, October 9). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Ong, C. S. (1971, September 25). Creating art through accidents. New Nation, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. 6 artists help to raise funds for aged. (1991, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Li, S. (1992, April 30). Coming up roses. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Wong, S. (1994, March 26). Eclectic selection, but some promising works. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Brush painter is quick on the draw. (1998, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Jay, S. E. (2001, February 26). Lu and behold. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Maheshwari, D. (2002, August 13). Alluring display of ‘Feminine Rose’. New Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
40. Nayar, P. (2005, September 9). Painter and patron of Singapore arts Earl Lu dies, aged 80. The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Ex-colony student to wed in Sydney. (1952, March 7). The Straits Times, p. 5; Chew, D. (2005, September 9). Farewell, old friend. Today, p. 60; Obituary: Dr Earl Lu Ming Teh. (2005, September 10). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Arts>>Painting
Art--Collectors and collecting--Singapore
Surgeons--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Artists--Singapore--Biography
Artists