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    Sale 2380

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    25 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 81

    RUDOLF BONNET (The Netherlands 1895-1978)

    Market scene

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    RUDOLF BONNET (The Netherlands 1895-1978)
    Market scene
    signed, dated and inscribed 'R.BONNET/Bali 1948' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    59 x 157 3/8 in. (150 x 400 cm.)


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    The graceful, the elegance and the beautiful, these are the prevalent qualities for the works of Bonnet. It is a constant yearning for the artist to portray the people in the noblest form for eternity. Having spent some time in Florence where he is known to have been painting incessantly, the influence of the Italian masters was evident in the works of Bonnet, manifesting in his accentuation of the grandeur and elegance of people.

    Apart from its beautiful people and breathtaking scenery, the rich ritualistic and ceremonial setting of Bali gives Bonnet the perfect grand stage as he depicts his 'performers'. For his perfect delineation of the characters and the impeccable arrangement of the people and their settings, always gives the finished work a dramatic and theatrical mood, befitting the lofty aspiration of the artist - to ensure the records of the people is 'preserved in its classical state'.
    The profiles of his beautiful sitters, male or female are amongst the favourite renditions of the artist. This penchant for the delineation of human forms could be dated back to Bonnet's Italian period where certainly the classical Greek sculptures and Renaissance works have made a great impression on the artist.

    Market scene, dated circa 1948 contains all the quintessential elements of a work of Bonnet. Depicting the landscape and the subjects with an unabashed elegance, thence successfully elevates the otherwise mundane, scene of quotidien, to a stage of rich ritualistic and ceremonial setting of a Balinese landscape.

    The significance of the work lies not just in the date of the work that clearly makes it one of the artist's early works in Bali, but in the sentiments of spontaneity and spirituality that Bonnet manages to express from the work. Such are the qualities which gradually became much rarer in the artist's later works. The significance of the work also lies in the sheer size of Market scene, which instantly places it in the league of the celebrated grand oeuvres such as the Krisdans (circa. 1930-40), Jogeddans, circa. 1930-40, Aankleden voor de voorstelling (1954) and the Rijstoogst (1952) which is noted to be in the collection of President Soekarno. The present work certainly also shares the same backdrop of the majestic landscape of the aforementioned works and it nevertheless exudes supremely the subtle elegance and poetic beauty of the numerous sitters.

    The beauty of the sitters are certainly the most inspiring elements for the artist who depicts the gentle features of the protagonists with emotive hands that alludes the Balinese beauties to classical Greek sculptures. The numerous figures depicted in the present work arguably show the artist at his best and revealed Bonnet's most sensitively executed and elegant renditions of human beauty that captured the artist's idea of a timeless essence of bodily elegance.

    When Bonnet arrived in Bali in 1929, he was already 35 years old and dated in 1948, the present work was painted when the artist was 53. Market scene has stayed in the family of the first owner and was hanging in the Chinese restaurant of the family till it surfaces in the market for this auction.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Rudolf Bonnet first came to Indonesia in 1928, visiting Bali and Nias. He finally settled in Bali. Together with the German artist, Walter Spies, they made a great impact on the development of Balinese painting and painters, with the formation of the Pita Maha organisation in 1936. This organisation functioned with a judging committee that involved both Balinese and foreign individuals sitting on a panel which aimed to maintain and ensure the quality of the Balinese paintings and to market their work. Selection would eventually be made followed with a selling exhibition. It was a time one would remember with fond memories and aptly described as the golden age of the Balinese paintings.

    Before the Pita Maha, traditional Balinese artists were painting as they were trained for centuries, repeating the images as they were taught but not seen and felt. Though demonstrating great skills, these works were not considered Art by Western definition. Bonnet and Spies, however first introduced the idea of 'Art for Art sake' to the artist and taught them to use painting as a way to express one's own individuality. The result was astonishing, as elegantly described by Drs. Jop Ubbens "The story has by now become quite well-known, the idyllic anecdote of the island of the gods with a few Europeans and three villages with artistically-minded inhabitants. Simply put: a few hundred still very young but talented indigenous artists were supplied with better materials and introduced to alternative themes. And then, the magic started." (Drs Jop Ubbens, "Balinese Modernists: From anthropology via art-history to commerce" in Pre-War Balinese Modernists 1928-1942: An Additional Page in Art-History, Ars Et Animatio, The Netherlands, 1999, p. 9).

    Sadly, the magic did not last. The Japanese occupation resulted in the death of Spies and internment of Bonnet. The Pita Maha was never the same again when the war ended. The spontaneous, original and meticulously painted Balinese works before the war never resumed their momentum of vibrant development.

    Apart from his contribution to the Pita Maha, Bonnet's elegant and sublime portraitures of the Balinese people are both an artistic and historical documentation of a people that came from an island described by anthropologists as a 'living museum'.