AFFANDI (Indonesian, 1907-1990)

Minum Tuak (Palm Wine Drinkers)

(Indonesian, 1907-1990)
Minum Tuak (Palm Wine Drinkers)
signed with artist's monogram (upper right)
oil on canvas
112 x 139 cm. (44 1/8 x 55 in.)
Collection of Hotel Indonesia, Indonesia
Acquired from the above by the father of the previous owner
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, USA

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Lot Essay


Considered within his lifetime to be the foremost expressionist artist in Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, Affandi was critically acclaimed both within and outside of Indonesia. The renowned art critic Herbert Read hailed Affandi as a painter who had succeeded in "developing a new course of Expressionism". New expressionism is indeed a description that is applicable to an understanding of Affandi's works in subsequent years, gaining for him a place of importance in world art history of the mid-20th century.

His works prior to the 1970s such as Minum Tuak (Palm Wine Drinkers) (Lot 38) were often feverishly colourful and showed the artist's love of vitality and movement, often overwhelming the subject of his paintings with the dynamism of his brush strokes. His art is often described as a direct expression of his feelings, and certainly, his representation of nature and his surroundings are evocative and highly animated.

His characteristic three-dimensional impasto that we now strongly identify with his work was first applied at the start of the Japanese Occupation in 1942. This "accidental" technique occurred when the brush that Affandi was using broke, and his desire and enthusiasm in wanting to finish the painting led him to squeezing the paint directly from the tube onto the canvas and using his hands to smear the paint and create the texture that he was looking for. Affandi's creations were often a product of an awareness of his surroundings coupled with instinct and spontaneity. The squeezing technique, therefore, suited him as it allowed him to paint fast and it was a better representation of his emotional need to finish a painting. Renowned writer and critic of Affandi's work, Astri Wright observes that the artist's smearing of paint with his fingers, palms, wrists and the back of his hands, adds a human texture to each painting, as though it is saturated with the artist's personal life force. Affandi, unlike other Indonesian and Indo-European artists, positioned himself beyond the idealisation of parts of the Dutch East Indies as "paradise". He wanted to portray reality and sought inspiration from the world around him, such as common scenes like rice terraces, Indonesian festivities, the sun, his self-portrait, the village cockfight, celebrations and communal bonding. These localised inspirations resulted in paintings that were bursting with a dynamic energy and emotional intensity - almost a clear depiction of the life of his homeland, which in Affandi's perception was the best and most beautiful thing.


The depiction of men drinking palm wine in the present lot is a recurring subject in Affandi's large body of work, which combines vigour and sensitivity to the human condition. Drinking and cockfighting provide a common interest for men from the same walk of life who enjoy the sense of brotherhood, adventure and tradition of this sporting event. It is a symbolic activity that signifies celebration and the fellowship of the community. The expression of this harmonious occasion and friendly rivalry of the cockfight is clearly depicted in this scene. The forceful lines, darker tones and the changes from heavier to lighter colours are almost representative of the friendly competition between the village men, but the palm wine together with the background of palm trees lighten the mood and create a sense of festivity. This dense composition of one of Affandi's favourite subjects, roosters and the cockfight as well as his interest in the camaraderie of his fellow men, is imbued with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Affandi's expressionistic style of painting can be compared to the works of Vincent van Gogh, Oskar Kokoschka and Eugène Delacroix for his use of vibrant and distinct colours as well as the brush strokes, swirls and texture of his works. His works draw the viewer in both to the scene and the emotions that Affandi felt while creating his masterpieces. Minum Tuak, one of the subjects that was often painted by Affandi, is an exquisite piece that awakens the mind and stirs the spirit of good cheer and festivity.

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