Lot 139
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Indonesian Art Sale 2018
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Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978)

'Ni Nyoman Dengan Banten'

titled, dated and signed ' "Ni Nyoman Dengan Banten" Bali 1975, R. Bonnet' (upper left)

pastel and charcoal on paper, 71x52 cm

Provenance:
Bought by Paulien Gobée, presumably directly from the artist. Thence by descent to the present owner.

Paulien Gobée was born on 26 February 1903. As a young girl, she moved to the former Dutch East Indies together with her parents and her younger sister. Her father taught mathematics at the secondary school in Surabaya. Paulien attended the same school, where one of her classmates was Sukarno. A brief quote from Sukarno’s biography, published in the Dutch newspaper Het Vrije Volk on 4 December 1965: “My first crush was Paulien Gobée, the daughter of one of my teachers. She was beautiful and I was crazy for her.” When the Second World War broke out, Paulien Gobée was on leave in the Netherlands. After the war, she returned to Surabaya, where she was a professor at the medical school. Following in the footsteps of her father, who had a passion for Chinese porcelain, Paulien too collected art: in addition to porcelain she was especially interested in paintings. At a reception at Sukarno’s home, the guests were shown his art collection. To Paulien’s surprise, it included paintings stolen from her home. When she confronted Sukarno about this, he looked at her and said, 'Ach Pautje, je weet, bij mij zijn ze in goede handen' (My dear Paulien, you know they are in safe hands with me). Fortunately she was able to add new work to her art collection throughout her long life.

‘Er waren daar zulke mooie mensen’ (‘So many beautiful people there’) Bonnet used to say when he returned from yet another journey. And yes, most of them are very pretty and very young, the men and women posing in the works of Rudolf Bonnet. Thinking of his work, the dignified Balinese men come to mind whom he used to draw or the elegant Balinese girls he portrayed, usually en buste and sometimes half-length. Are they idealised? Mrs De Roever doesn’t think so: ‘Het is veeleer zo dat hij bij de keus van een model zijn eigen eisen stelde en daarbij was zijn eerste criterium vaak schoonheid, ook voor de mens’. (‘It’s rather a question of choosing a model matching his idea of beauty’.)

Around 1920, Bali was discovered by European artists as being heaven on earth for painters. Bonnet arrives in Bali in 1929. He is about to become one of the most influential European artists being a source of inspiration and encouragement for local artists and playing an important role in the planning and realisation of the Museum for Balinese Art ‘Puri Lukisan’ in Ubud. ‘Puri Lukisan’ means ‘Palace of Paintings' and it was built according to Bonnet's design to house the collection of Balinese art assembled by Bonnet and Ubud prince and his lifelong friend Cokorda Gde Agung Sukawati.

Bonnet’s name is often mentioned together with that of Walter Spies, the Russian born German painter with whom he founded the Pita Maha (Great Spirit, Guiding inspiration) artists group, which encouraged local artists to raise their artistic standards. Bonnet took over Spies’ small water palace to live in and stayed in Ubud until 1940. During the war he was interned in camps in ParéParé, Bolong and at the end of the war he was brought to Makasar. Two years later, in 1947, he returned to Bali where he built himself a house and studio in Campuhan. A second prosperous Indonesian artistic period was about to start. He was commissioned with various large projects by President Soekarno but eventually fell out of favour and had to leave the country in 1957. Fifteen years later he returned to resume his work for the museum with renewed fervour and returned to Bali on a regular basis. Up to the last years of his life, Bonnet continued his regular travels to Indonesia always bringing back new work when coming home to Laren. The drawing of the beautiful Ni Nyoman in this sale dated 1975 must have been done during one of these journeys, the last of them being in 1977 when he was honoured with the golden art medal Dharma Kusuma awarded to him by Mr. Sukarmen, governor of Bali.

Bonnet was a key figure in the development of modern Balinese art but most of all he has played a leading role in establishing the Westerner's image of Bali that still exists today.

Source:
-Dr. H. de Roever-Bonnet, 'Rudolf Bonnet Een zondagskind - Zijn leven en zijn werk', Wijk en Aalburg 1991, p.84. -ibid. p.140.

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