POST D: The Art of Painting in Indonesia

Painting is one of the world’s oldest forms of art and is prevalent all over the world. Indonesia is an artistically diverse archipelago that has held art at its soul for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest, pre-historic cave paintings in the world were discovered in the caves near Maros in the southern island of Sulawesi around 50 years ago and have now been dated using uranium decay levels to be over 39,900 years old (Thomson 2014).

The island of Bali is where painting has been highly developed over the years and artists from here are famous for their paintings. Balinese paintings have been rooted in Balinese culture but have also been heavily influenced by the various countries that have been affiliated with Indonesia over time. Such as India, before the 19th Century, from where, “artistic and religious traditions were introduced… over a thousand years ago through the prism of ancient Javanese culture (Vickers 2012).” This is why many Balinese paintings are a combination of Hindu-Javanese folklore, mythology and, religious and communal life. Traditional Balinese paintings are noteworthy for their, “highly vigorous yet refined intricate art which [resemble] baroque folk art with tropical themes (Antique Java, Indonesian painted wood temple n.d.).”

Further, into the 19th Century, the Dutch colonised Indonesia. At this time, more Western influences came into Indonesian art. Raden Saleh, an Arab-Javanese painter was the pioneer of modernist Indonesian art. He was heavily influenced by the Romanticism art movement and also expressed his cultural origins through his paintings. He created one of Indonesia’s most famous paintings, Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro (The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro) as a response to Dutch artist Nicolaas Pieneman’s The Submission of Prince Dipo Negoro to General De Kock, which, in his belief, inaccurately depicted the true events of the scene (Effendy n.d.).

R Saleh, Penangkapan P Diponegoro 1957.jpgPenangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro by Raden Saleh (Effendy n.d.)

In the 20th Century, around the 1920s and 1930s, Indonesia started displaying more patriotism. Since the Romanticism movement was inherently Western, Indonesians believed they should not continue to develop it into their painting practice. Artists like Ida Bagus Made and Basuki Abdullah emerged during this time and drew their inspiration from the natural world. Further into the 1940s, Indonesian artists started combining Western techniques with Southeast Asian imagery. Later in the 1960s, artists started to embrace abstract expressionism and weaved Islamic themes and content into their paintings. This was also a time where art started to become political, but the political inclinations soon faded out as they were assumed to harbour communist affinities (Wright 1994).

3329ee1c910dc02e706b914cb967e919_w522.jpgJelekong’s painters can handle a range of subjects that find favour with buyers around Indonesia (Adriansyah 2013)

In 1965, Odin Rohidin, painter and former dramatic actor, pioneered painting in Jelekong, a sub-district of Baleendah in Bandung. Since its beginning, Jelekong has become a painting village whose residents, ranging from 10 to 55 years of age, utilise a multitude of techniques to visualise their ideas. The many paintings created here are marketed domestically and also exported overseas. Further, “Quite a few Jelekong painters have participated in exhibitions in Berlin, Germany, the Netherlands, Dubai and other countries in the Middle East (Adriansyah 2013).”

It can be garnered that Indonesia has had a long and diverse history of paintings, evolving from pre-historic times through to contemporary representations that find favour all over the world, and that art is still held in high regard by many Indonesians today.



Adriansyah, A.2013, ‘West Java’s village of painting’, viewed 15 February 2017, <>.

Antique Java, Indonesian painted wood temple n.d., viewed 16 February 2017, <>.

Effendy,R. n.d., ‘On Appropriation’, viewed 16 February 2017, <>.

Thomson, H. 2014, ‘Rock (Art) of Ages: Indonesian Cave Paintings Are 40,000 Years Old’, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Vickers, A. 2012, Balinese Art, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, VT, USA.

Wright, A. 1994, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press.

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