Affandi, born in Cirebon, West Java in 1907, was a contemporay of the renowned S. Sudjojono (1917-1986), who was perhaps the main advocate of Modern Indonesian Art. While the eloquent Sudjojono assumed leadership for the 1950s modernist movement, Affandi supported it with his numerous paintings of the ordinary folks. Affandi's life and career documented the daily life of a young nation in transition from colony to republic.
People roaming the streets of Indonesia were not the conventional subject matter for paintings in the colonial Dutch East Indies. The beauty of the country remained the greatest inspiration for foreign artists and a handful of indigenous artists working in the first half of the 20th century. They commonly depicted beautiful dancers, lush tropical vegetation and the majestic portraitures of social elite. The modernists labelled these works as the Mooie Indie (Beautiful Indonesia) school, whose artists were obsessed with the idealised image of the country, and oblivious to the harsh realities of a country stricken with poverty and corruption.
Sudjojono wrote "Painting is not only related to the conventional values of that sort. A pair of old shoes and Hamengku Buwono VII (the king of Yogyakarta), and the banks of the Ciliwung river (smelly waterway running through the center of Jakarta) and the scenery of the Bromo mountains (a cool attractive area with beautiful scenery) are all the same. What gives value to the painting is not convention, but the soul of the painter." (Jim Supangkat, "The Emergence of Indonesian Modern Art" in Indonesian Modern Art and Beyond, The Indonesian Fine Arts Foundation, 1997, p. 32.).
Affandi took this further with his fervent brush strokes, inundating his subjects with such emotions that every work screams out the personality of the artist. His original rather conventional and realistic style gradually morphed into one of distortion and deformation in the 1950s. While Sudjojono's rhetoric had a great impact on him, it would be a gross simplification to say his artistic style was a direct consequence of the modernist movement. Rather, Sudjojono's words confirmed Affandi's budding tendency towards expressionism.
Offering Sadjen is a fine example of the artist's expressionistic style, applied to a traditionally 'beautiful' subject. The beauty of the sitter who was clearly a young girl was not highlighted but the intensity of her emotion. With a seemingly motionless sitter, the work is imbued with a sense of vivacity with the apparent swirling brush strokes on the canvas, almost as fresh as they were newly applied.