• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2380

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    25 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 100

    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)

    Girl with jackfruit

    Price Realised  


    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)
    Girl with jackfruit
    signed 'Hendra' (lower right)
    oil on cnavas
    52 3/8 x 34 1/4 in. (133 x 87 cm.)

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    Hendra's portrayal of women is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful female portraits in the history of Indonesian Modern Art. Indeed, it is difficult to find parallels for them in the Indonesian history of portraiture as these ravishing images are rendered with the most unique and individualistic style of the artist. The artist's muse is not of a specific person but rather he drew inspiration from the many women he knew of in the community, she could be a vendor on the side of the street, a neighbour or simply someone who was just in passing and whom Hendra managed to catch a glimpse and thus transposed into an eternal icon on the canvas.

    Woman was a reflection of the artist's cosmos. Hendra's obsession with all things 'Indonesian' finds a perfect expression with this subject. If she was breastfeeding a baby with her strong, masculine feet rooted firmly to the ground, she was a symbol of the artist's beloved motherland, the young republic of Indonesia. If she was depicted in glorious colours, dressed in the finest traditional batik, she would be the symbol of the great Javanese culture that was close to the artist's heart. If she was placed in a grandiose landscape with which she could almost merge as one entity with her curvaceous body which Hendra had intended it to be reminiscent of the dramatic landscape, she would be the embodiment of all things that are beautiful and Indonesian. Hers was the privileged body on which the light fell to perfection.

    Many factors contributed to the exceptional quality of Woman with Jackfruit. The composition is typical of Hendra's classical portraitures where the subject, with her elongated and slender frame was donned with a batik dress of exquisite intricacy and her side profile enhanced. The palette is exceptionally rich, make up of colours that are deeply saturated and yet luminous and vibrant. The paint was applied with such spontaneity and vigor that it still looks fresh, as if Hendra had completed the painting only moments ago.

    Her body was rendered by the same undulating forms that had characterized much of Hendra's work since the early days, but whereas before the forms had so often seemed predatory which by this stage of the artist's career (1960s on wards) evolved to be slower, softer, more welcoming and more organic.

    It seems with Woman with the Jackfruit, Hendra was at his whimsical best. As a colourist, the red and green shades complimented one another with a vividness that is in accordance of Hendra's decorative tendency, which he took it further in this work by painting the enhanced details of the dark curls that crowned the subject, giving her an effect of bejeweled and leaving the onlooker in awe.