The Puri Lukisan Museum is an excellent place for exploring Balinese classical painting and sculpture from the modern era.
It is one of the first and largest galleries to appear in Bali. The museum was officially opened in 1956 and became the embodiment of the spirit of the Pita Maha art movement, promoted by the Dutch master painter Rudolf Bonnet. The goal of this movement was to preserve and develop Balinese artistic culture.
Enchanted by the island, Bonnet stayed in Ubud, ultimately revolutionizing the art world in Bali. His collaborator in this endeavor was the German artist Walter Spies.
The museum houses numerous paintings representing the art of the Batuan village. These works are characterized by the depiction of numerous figures in expressive poses, resembling traditional wayang shadow puppet figures.
Batuan was renowned for its dancers, sculptors, and artists. The most notable painters of the pre-modernist era were I Dewa Nyoman Mura (1877-1950) and I Dewa Putu Kebes (1874-1962). Their mastery was reflected in "sangging," the traditional textile painting for temples.
The Batuan school was not as strongly influenced by the West as the Ubud school.
Batuan paintings often depict scenes from legends and everyday life. They feature night or twilight scenes, grotesque elements, frightening monsters, and witches.
The development of painting in Sanur was influenced by the Nieuwenhuis brothers (Hans and Rolf), who opened an aquarium for tropical fish in 1935.
As their business grew, so did the demand for souvenirs, leading to the opening of a store selling local textiles, jewelry, statuettes, and paintings.
The brothers befriended the local priest and artist Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai Griya and encouraged him to create paintings for their store.
The success of this venture began attracting other artists who joined the effort. As tourists preferred colorful works, some artists engaged in coloring drawings initially done in black ink.
The early works of the Sanur school feature erotic drawings and scenes from the world of animals and marine life. They are characterized by a rough design, a lack of perspective, and pastel tones. Huge sea creatures harmonize with humans against the backdrop of the sea. The paintings lack fine details as artists were required to produce them quickly.
The collection also includes many works representing the Ubud style, particularly paintings by Gusti Nyoman Lempad.
Ubud, surrounded by royal houses and temples, has been an art center for centuries. Until the 1920s, the traditional wayang painting school dominated here.
The renaissance began with the arrival of artists on Bali such as Covarrubias, Theo Meyer, Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonnet.
The influence of Spies and Bonnet was most pronounced in the creation of the Pitamaha Art Guild movement in 1936. King of Ubud, Chokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, was one of its founders.
The aim of the movement was to preserve Balinese art amid the tourist boom. Founders met to select paintings offered to them and organized exhibitions throughout Indonesia and abroad. The Pitamaha movement operated until the beginning of World War II.
The religious narrative that prevailed in paintings earlier shifted towards scenes of everyday Balinese life.
"Catching Eels at Dusk" by I Gusti Wiranata (1970)
A new surge of creative energy occurred in Bali with the arrival of Dutch artist Arie Smit (1916-2016).
While visiting Bali, Arie walked through the countryside near the village of Champuan. He stumbled upon a group of boys drawing something in the sand. Impressed by their talent, he invited them to his studio, where the boys became his students.
Smit provided them with necessary materials and taught them painting techniques.
Smit arrived in Indonesia as a Dutch soldier and remained on Java after the country gained independence. He taught painting and arts at the University of Bandung. In 1951, he applied for Indonesian citizenship to avoid deportation from the country. In 1956, he visited Bali for the first time.
The movement of young artists founded by Smit was characterized by vivacity, humor, the colorful nature of works, and linearity. At its peak, it included about 300-400 masters.