Rudolf Bonnet's artistic talents were apparent at a very young age but he did not receive much support from his family, particularly his father. The artist's initial art education was in the form of an applied art school between 1913 to 1916. He attended the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts' evening drawing classes where he received training from the celebrated artists Antoon Derkinderen and Carel Dake Sr..
The first distinctive period in the artist's career came around 1920 when he began to travel extensively in Europe, notable Italy where he stayed on in Florence and painted incessantly. Bonnet's preoccupation with portraits of people during the Italian period is evidenced by the work
La Domenica delle Palme, dated 1923. The work was imbued with a unique sense of quiet energy, and Bonnet skillfully contrasted the light, rosy hues on the cheeks of the boys to the confident strokes of black charcoal, attaining an uncanny state of realism in the expressions of his models.
The artist himself has explained his preference for the portraiture. In a letter dated 1926, the artist commented "My work might also be interpreted as an unit, as a single portrayal of a race, It is a story: The story of a peasant-class, preserved in its classical state (in some regions, at least) and part of a people whose background spans the centuries. Still, one of these days that race will have vanished. So considered from this viewpoint these hard facts are not portraits. They are the representatives of a race." (Ruud Spruit, Indonesian Impressions: Oriental Themes in Western Painting, wijk en Aalburg, 1992, p.20).
Indeed Bonnet was very much dedicated to the preservation of the indigenous life style, which he felt, was constantly eroded by Western missionaries and tourism. Thence, the artist devoted most of his works to the faithful records of the people, ensuring that it is 'preserved in its classical state'.
Bonnet depicted the 'portrait' of Balinese life style throughout his Balinese phase, it could be the single portrayal of Arjuna, the legendary hero or a young girl in her blossoming pre-pubescent stage or indeed it could be the full theatricals best illustrated by the present work where one finds the every essence of Balinese life in the perspective of Bonnet - elegance and beauty in their most authentic and pure forms.
Bali Life documents the draughtsmanship of Bonnet at his best; the elegant delineation and spontaneous exactitude of the artist are remarkable. In this composition, a community is gathered by a river, a symbol of the source of life and the protagonists are depicted at bath, chatting or tending the animals, at repose and at work, in sum a portrayal of a living community. The present work is a testimony to the meticulous methodology of the artist, one is impressed with the completeness of the composition as one is well aware that it is a preparatory study for a grand oeuvre. The markings on the positioning of the various subjects gives an immediate effect of spontaneity; a dress rehearsal before the performance, perhaps slightly raw in its presentation but abundant with creativity and freshness, posied for a perfect performance.