Pioneers of
Balinese Painting

The Rudolf Bonnet Collection
Helena Spanjaard
(KIT Publishers)
The artist Rudolf Bonnet left the Netherlands for the South Pacific in 1929, and was to spend the most of his life in Indonesia collecting "modern" Balinese art. He ended up with over a hundred paintings, of which sixty-two are nicely presented here, along with another thirty-eight photos and drawings. I would like to reproduce at least half of these here because they are gorgeously conceived, elegantly reproduced, and represent astonishing artful balance and subtlety.

But that would mean me laboring fuming over my 1912 vintage wood-burning scanner for the rest of the day (or for weeks), wanting to toss it out the window because, like me, it has turned cantankerous and stupid, likes to trip me up by cooking up new requirements for getting an even, straight and not washed-out reproduction, free of blotches and wrinkles (like me). If you think I am going to go through this even for such breathtaking Balinese art, you got another think coming.

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However, if you have even the slightest affection for this part of the world, if you were as enthralled as I by Colin McPhee's A House in Bali, if you have ever wondered at the supreme artistry of Gamelan music, you should go to "" and ask Ms. Esther Dado how to order a copy of Pioneers of Balinese Painting.

The artists represented here were active during Bonnet's stay, which means the paintings and drawings are dated 1929 - 1963.

For all his effort on behalf of art and truth, all Bonnet got was a kick-in-the-pants --- the Japanese interred him in Sulawesi starting in 1942, and the Indonesian government ran him out in 1958. The painting I have reproduced above is by I Gusti Nyoman Lempas who claimed to be 116 years old when he died. From the drawings and paintings shown here, I would guess he was inspired by the gods who may have rewarded him for his sense of scale and drama by letting him live on far beyond his allotted time.

You may also enjoy I Dewa Kompian Pasek whose illustration of "Drinking Rice Wine" from 1958 has all the overtones of an orgy with a hint of the sly bureaucrat Henri Rousseau (he was a customs-house clerk, if I am not mistaken). If I can get my crappy old scanner to do one more trick without belching forth smoke and giving me another attack of piles, I'll do it and stick it in below. It's a wonder.

--- A. W. Allworthy
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