Xu Beihong (1895–1953) was one of the best-known figure painters in pre-war China. His oil paintings combined compositional elements from traditional Chinese paintings with those of European realism. Sir Shenton Thomas (1879–1962) was the Governor of Singapore from 1936 to 1946. Xu composed this portrait of Sir Shenton while on a visit to Singapore in July 1939. The Governor’s stiff posture could be Xu’s attempt to capture the tension before the outbreak of the Pacific War.