This season, Christie's is pleased to present a selection of quality Indo-European paintings that attests to the enduring images captured of Indonesian culture and life by European artists who found in the Dutch East Indies, today's Indonesia, an inspiring artistic environment. Referring to the foreign artists who visited or lived in Indonesia during and after the colonial period, the Indo-Europeans came from common artistic and academic backgrounds and were strongly influenced by the European schools. Individually, they developed their own distinct artistic style and flavour, meshing the styles they were trained with the inspiration they reaped from their new surroundings.
Amongst the Indo-Europeans, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur De Merpres is one of the most prolific practitioner. This season, Christie's has three outstanding work from his Balinese oeurvre, including the pastel and chalk on paper, Three Dancers in the Garden (Lot 2251), a completed drawing which demonstrates amply the strength of his draughtsmanship and the elegance of his lines instead of colours which appear more distinctly in his canvas works.
Willem Gerard Hokfer came to Indonesia in 1938, visiting Jakarta, Bandung and Bogor before settling down in Bali where he, too, was inspired by the richness of Indonesian life. Portrait of Ni Tjawan (Lot 2253) is a superlative example of a portrait of the famous legong dancer. The young girl in full legong dance costume with offerings in one hand is rendered in a dry medium, giving it a softer, more personal feel than the lively scenes in Le Mayeur's works, comparative to Willem Dooyewaard's Balinese Dancer (Lot 2255). The latter executed in charcoal, catches the subject unaware as the dancer appears to be in mid-motion, similar to the work of the same title by Roland Strasser. Both Balinese dancers, in the works by Strasser and Dooyewaard, appear to be more candid portrayals of their subjects than those by Hofker and Le Mayeur, but are by no means any less truthful in their depiction of the Balinese life.
Market Scene (Lot 2175) by Gerard Pieter Adolfs is an impressionistic depiction of everyday life in Indonesia. Born in Semarang, Java, Adolfs was a self-taught artist who studied architecture in the Netherlands. He returned to Indonesia in 1922, dedicating himself fully to painting. Interested in capturing the essence of Indonesian life and culture, Adolfs elevated a mundane scene at a market place with the expert strokes of his paintbrush.
Other instances of depicting the everyday as subjects worthy of praise include Theo Meier's Jettli Reading a Letter on the Verandah of the House in Suandok (Lot 2177), a portrait of his Thai wife. Unmistakably Gauguin-nesque in feel, the warm orange and red hues of the painting suggests the heat of the afternoon in the tropics, coupled with the exotic nude reclining on the settee, forms yet another romanticised image associated with the relaxed life on the archipelago. Relatively more detailed in execution is Auke Sonnega's works which is an intricately composed painting of the land and its people, stylized and heavy in decorative accents. Tropical fruits blend in seamlessly with the vegetation, while the sarong of the man on flows into the depiction of the fields. Once, Sonnega had seen "astral" forms at a gamelan performance, luminous and richly-coloured devis bathed in an etheric light. Perhaps that explains the glow the individual images in the painting emit, the blur of white that delineates them and separates the foreground from the background, preventing the painting from becoming a chaotic mess of Balinese icons. What results is an artwork with seemingly Cubist influences, yet retaining the familiar Art Deco elements prevalent in the works of Sonnega.