Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
gestures, refined divine and heroic characters, and vulgar, crude evil ones.
The paintings tell a story in a series of panels, rather like a comic strip, and
often depict scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata . Other themes
are the Kakawins poems, and indigenous Balinese folklore with its beliefs in
demonic spirits - see the painted ceilings of the Kertha Gosa (Hall of Justice;
p213) in Semarapura for an example.
The skill of the artist is apparent in the overall composition and sensitiv-
ity of the line work. The colouring is of secondary importance, often left to
the artist's children. Natural colours were once made from soot, clay and
pigs' bones, and artists were strictly limited to set shades. Today, modern
oils and acrylics are used, but the range of colours is still limited. A final
burnishing gives these pictures, known as lukisan antic (antique paintings),
an aged look.
A good place to see classical painting in a modern context is at the Nyo-
man Gunarsa Museum near Semarapura (p215), which was established to
preserve and promote classical techniques.
When Gregor Krause's book Bali: People and Art was published in 1922, it became a bestseller.
Krause had worked in Bangli as a doctor between 1912 and 1914 and his unique photography
of an uninhibited lifestyle in a lush, tropical environment was one of the driving forces that
promoted Bali as a tropical paradise for hordes of tourists in the 1930s. Western visitors included
many talented individuals who helped rejuvenate dormant Balinese arts, and who played a great
part in creating the image of Bali that exists today.
Walter Spies
German artist Walter Spies (1895-1942) first visited Bali in 1925 and moved there in 1927, estab-
lishing the image of Bali for Westerners that prevails today. Befriended by the important Sukawati
family, he built a house at the confluence of two rivers at Campuan, west of Ubud. His home
soon became a prime gathering point for Westerners who followed. He involved himself in every
aspect of Balinese art and culture and was an important influence on its renaissance.
In 1932 he became curator of the museum in Denpasar, and with Rudolf Bonnet and Cokorda
Gede Agung Sukawati, their Balinese patron, he founded the Pita Maha artists' cooperative in
1936. He co-authored Dance & Drama in Bali, published in 1938, and adapted a centuries old
chant into the Kecak dance for the German film, The Island of Demons .
Rudolf Bonnet
Bonnet (1895-1978) was a Dutch artist whose work concentrated on the human form and every-
day Balinese life. Many classical Balinese paintings with themes of markets and cockfights are
indebted to Bonnet. He returned to Bali in the 1950s to plan the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud,
and again in 1973 to help establish the museum's permanent collection.
Miguel Covarrubias
Island of Bali, written by this Mexican artist (1904-57), is still the classic introduction to the island
and its culture. Covarrubias visited Bali twice in the early 1930s and was also involved in theatre
design and printmaking.
Colin McPhee
Canadian musician Colin McPhee (1900-65) wrote A House in Bali , not published until 1944, but
one of the best written accounts of Bali - his tales of music and house building are often highly
amusing. After WWII, McPhee played an important role in introducing Balinese music to the West,
and encouraging gamelan (traditional Balinese orchestra) to visit the US.
Robert & Louise Koke
This American couple opened the first hotel at Kuta Beach in 1936, which was an instant hit.
Many of their decisions still resonate today. See above for more about the Kokes and the early
days of tourism in Bali.
K'tut Tantri
A woman of many aliases, K'tut Tantri breezed in from Hollywood in 1932 inspired by the film Bali,
the Last Paradise, an early example of soft-core ethnographic 'documentaries'. She dyed her red
hair black (only demons have red hair) and was befriended by the prince of the Bangli kingdom.
She opened a hotel first in collaboration with and then in competition with the Kokes.
After the war, however, only traces of the hotel's foundations remained. In the postwar strug-
gle against the Dutch, K'tut worked for the Indonesian Republicans, and as Surabaya Sue, she
broadcast from Surabaya in support of their cause. Her book, Revolt in Paradise (written as K'tut
Tantri), was published in 1960.
Other Western Visitors
Scores of non-Balinese
artists make their home
on the island. One,
Ashley Bickerton, who
is formerly of New York,
is renowned for his
grotesque and funny
paintings of human forms
that often draw
inspiration from tourist
life on Bali. For more, see
the boxed text, p122.
In the 1930s, with few commissions from temples, painting was virtually dying
out. Rudolph Bonnet and Walter Spies (opposite), with their patron Cokorda
Gede Agung Surapati, formed the Pita Maha (literally, Great Vitality) to
encourage painting as an art form and to find a new market. The group had
more than 100 members at its peak in the 1930s.
The changes Bonnet and Spies inspired were revolutionary. Balinese artists
started painting single scenes instead of narrative tales and using everyday
life rather than romantic legends as their themes: the harvest, the market,
cockfights, offerings at a temple or a cremation. These paintings were known
as the Ubud style.
Batuan, a noted painting centre, came under the influence of the Pita
Maha, but its artists still retained many features of classical painting. They
depicted daily life, but included many scenes - for example a market, dance
and a rice harvest might all appear in a single work. The Batuan style is also
noted for its inclusion of some very modern elements, such as sea scenes
with the odd windsurfer.
Themes changed, and so did the actual way of painting. Modern paint
and materials were used and stiff formal poses gave way to realistic 3D
representations. More importantly, pictures were not just painted to cover
a space in a palace or temple.
In one way, however, the style remained unchanged - Balinese paintings
were packed with detail; a painted Balinese forest, for example, has branches,
leaves and a whole zoo of creatures reaching out to fill every tiny space. You
can see these glorious styles at the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud (p175)
and in many galleries and art shops.
This new artistic enthusiasm was interrupted by WWII and Indonesia's
internal turmoil. New work degenerated into copies of the original spirits,
with one exception: the development of the Young Artists' style.
WOJ Nieuwenkamp: First
European Artist in Bali,
by Bruce Carpenter, is a
fascinating depiction of
Bali from 1904, when the
Dutch artist
Nieuwenkamp first
arrived with a sketchpad
and a bicycle.
Dutch painter Arie Smit was in Penestanan, just outside Ubud, in 1956, when
he noticed an 11-year-old boy drawing in the dirt and wondered what he
would produce if he had proper equipment. The story tells of how the lad's
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