Bateson & Mead, ref. M1044
Haks & Maris, ref. H&M409
Pre-War Balinese Modernists
"The story has by now become quite well-known, the idyllic anecdote of the island of the gods with a few Europeans and three villages with artistically-minded inhabitants. Simply put: a few hundred still very young but talented indigenous artists were supplied with better materials and introduced to alternative themes. And then, the magic started." (Drs. Jop Ubbens, "Balinese Modernists: From Anthropology via Art-History to Commerce" in Pre-War Balinese Modernists 1928-1942, Haarlem, 1999, p. 9.)
The words tersely described a period (1928-1942) of unprecedented creativity in Balinese painting. Prior to this period, Balinese painting was developing as an applied art-form and served traditional purposes such as adornment for temples, palaces and official buildings. The arrival of Western artists changed the scene and Walter Spies notably had a huge impact on this change.
In 1927, Spies made the move from the kraton of Java to the puri of Ubud. His influence and impact were felt almost immediately among the Balinese artists. Spies advised the Balinese to work independently and creatively. Ida Bagus Djatasura, a gifted painter from the village of Batuan, once explained the teaching of tuan Spies: "He taught us that if we did bad work, we could tear it, throw it away. We did not need to keep it." This was to the indigenous artist, the most precious lesson taught by Spies.
The native painters implemented the'realistic' aspects of Spies' works. The resulting effect was an astonishing and unprecedented period of creativity in Balinese modern art. The sudden surge to record the world around them was all the more remarkable as it was never done before. The relationship between Bali and Spies was highly inspirational and beneficial in two ways. While Spies taught the natives to record the surroundings through an individualistic perspective, he himself also drew inspiration from the culture of the island which is evidenced by a spiritual and symbolist depth that did not exist in Spies' earlier works prior to his Balinese period.
The eruption of the Second World War and the Japanese occupation of Bali were to put an abrupt end to this creative period that was never revived. It was the works of the Pre-War Balinese artists that evidenced this tale of beauty and creativity, which might otherwise have remained a legend from the bygone era.
F. Haks, J. Ubbens, A. Vickers, L. Haks and G. Maris, Pre-War Balinese Modernists 1928-1942, Haarlem, 1999, p. 63 (illustrated.).
Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Magie en Modernisme, 20 May - 22 August 1999. Ubud, Bali, Museum Puri Lukisan, Magic and Modernism, 26 September - 30 November 1999.
Jakarta, Erasmus Huis, Magic and Modernism, 19 January - 12 February 2000.
Leeuwarden, Fries Museum, Magie en Modernisme, 4 June - 3 September 2000.