"My work might also be interpreted as a unit, as a single portrayal of a race. It is a story. The story of a peasant class, preserved in its classical state, and part of a people whose background spans the centuries."
Pursuing the myth of the untouched, unspoiled land and its alluring inhabitants, Dutchman Rudolf Bonnet arrived in Bali in 1929 and settled in Ubud, its artistic and cultural locus. His aim was to immerse himself in the island's culture and landscape. For Bonnet, Bali was a grand stage and its people the enigmatic performers that he would capture again and again in his expressive drawings on paper. Drawing inspiration from the masters of the Italian Renaissance, Bonnet was particularly interested in the study of portraiture.
Completed in 1955, Study for Two Balinese Girls - Ni Radji was completed as a preparatory drawing for an oil painting illustrated here, Two Balinese Girls, which is also dated to 1955. It is almost certain that the painting was a commission. Almost the same size as the oil painting which was collected by President Sukarno, the first president of the Republic of Indonesia, Study for Two Balinese Girls - Ni Radji lends a focused perspective on the elegance and grace of the subject. His expert shading and articulation of the drapery of the figure is completed with a technical precision that recalls ancient Greek sculpture. Ni Radji is posed beside a wall. Her gently sinuous pose contrasts the straight vertical line of the wall, and lends a certain regal nobility in her deportment. The viewers' eyes are drawn to the offering she is carrying. Bonnet delighted in painting these accoutrements of culture; it is through these aspects of material culture that give away the humbleness of their daily lives, and it is through Bonnet's artistic vision and steady hand that they are elevated to the highest standards of classical beauty.