Flawless Crystal 1949

Dora Gordine, Flawless Crystal, bronze, 1949
Dora Gordine, Flawless Crystal, 1949, bronze, 38.5 x 24.4 x 23.8 cm. Cast by Morris Singer.

The model for Flawless Crystal was Elizabeth Choy OBE (1910-2006), a Singaporean teacher and councillor who took an active role in the resistance during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during the Second World War, smuggling food, medicine and messages to prisoners of war in Changi Prison. As a result of these activities, she was captured by the Kempeitei, the Japanese secret police, and beaten and tortured during more than 200 days of captivity, but never confessed to her resistance activities and was eventually released. 

After the war, she and her husband were invited to England to receive OBEs and remained in Britain until 1949. Though Choy was understandably self-conscious about her body due to her wartime experiences, she began modelling for artists during her stay in Britain. She found it to be a therapeutic experience that helped her rebuild her self-esteem, particularly posing for Gordine, who met her in 1947 and persuaded her to pose nude for two sculptures, Flawless Crystal and Serene Jade, which were exhibited at the Leicester Galleries in November 1949. When asked in 1971 for an article in New Nation what her most interesting modelling assignment had been, she responded, “I was the model for Dora Gordine’s Serene Jade. I liked it so much that I bought one of the six she sculptured at a discount from her”. After returning to Singapore in 1949, Choy became an iconic figure in the 1950s to 1960s and remained an honoured public figure throughout her life. She was a symbol of women’s liberty and of hope and possibility for many citizens of the budding Singapore nation and played an influential role in shaping Singapore’s heritage.

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