• Southeast Asian Modern and Con auction at Christies

    Sale 2721

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1197

    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)

    Women in the market

    Price Realised  


    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)
    Women in the market
    signed and dated 'Hendra 57' (lower right)
    oil on board
    94 1/2 x 47 1/4 in. (240 x 120 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    "Although his style and colours developed, Hendra's choice of themes did not change dramatically in his painting life. From the beginning, it seems, Hendra was painting people in contexts of work and play, in celebration, struggle, and death. Such themes were well established long before he joined LERKA. Seeds of Hendra's mature style were already in place in the 1950s, such as the tendency to depict people in profile or in silhouette, with a certain stylised exaggeration of facial features, expressive body movements, and long thin arms. This vocabulary is related to that of the wayang, which has influenced so much on one of the features that make Hendra's paintings look 'Indonesian'." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 170-171).

    The present work well illustrates the distinct qualities as explained by Astri Wright in the above quotation. The works of Hendra always reveal an individual with a zest for life and for nature. With the curvaceous female body splendidly enhanced with vivacious colours, the artist celebrates their roles on the street with a dramatic effect that eroded the mundane nature of an otherwise ordinary scene of daily life.

    The importance of women in the works of Hendra was discussed by Astri Wright, "Hendra's women are types, not clearly distinguishable individuals, and many interpretations of their roles and meanings are possible. At the most basic level, they are nourishing, nursing, mothering beauties, voluptuous and undulating bodies wrapped in brightly coloured cloth. Their forms are echoed by the forms of papayas, eggplants, and cucumbers. They are young and their long graceful arms, exaggerating the elegant hand movements that are so typically Javanese, contrast with their thick feet with widely spread toes - the feet of villagers and farmers. This way of depicting feet, as well as the use of exaggerated profiles, with long necks, protruding noses, and large eyes, echoes the stylization of human form found in wayang. (Ibid, p. 176).

    Clearly, the description of Hendra's favoured depiction of the female figure is observed in the present work as they, clothed in vivacious colours, the ladies are busy engaging with one another, the one in the middle is holding up a piece of textile as she gazes to her right with her side profile enhanced and squatting just in front of her is another lady who holds on to the other end of the same piece of textile whilst few other ladies look on. The interaction is immediate and symbolic. The textile, traditional Javanese batik, has always been a symbol of the beloved Javanese culture and tradition for the artist is placed right in the center of the work and serves as the essential fabric of the society that binds the community.

    Much has been discussed on the artist's socialist tendencies but most have overlooked Hendra's affinity for Kuntilanak Wangi, a socially organized movement between 1950-1965 which propagates the advance of feminist movement. The impact of the movement is widespread touching on all fronts in Indonesia, from politics to culture; the women consciously guarded their rights and got involved. One would regard the depiction of women by Hendra quite differently with this piece of information in the background, the seemingly pastoral sentiment of the many compositions he has made throughout his career suddenly assumes a greater socio/political overtone that beguiles the beholder in quite a different manner.


    Purchased directly from the artist by Sutan Aswar.
    Thence by descent to the present owner.