Lot 62
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Indonesian Art Sale | 8 September 2021
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Arie Smit (1916-2016)

'Sanur and rice goddess'

signed 'Arie' (lower right) and signed, annotated and dated ' "Sanur and Rice Goddess" / Bali - 1957' (lower left)

oil on canvas, 58x87 cm

Provenance: -Acquired by a Dutch geologist working for Shell in Indonesia from 1950 to 1958.
-Thence by descent to the present owner.

Arie Smit - Sanur and Rice Goddess, 1957.

Arie Smit (1916-2016) produced this striking painting several months after relocating to Bali. On July 19th 1956 he and fellow Dutch painter Auke Sonnega left Java for Bali. For sixty years, the island became his new home, and source of inspiration.

Arie Smit was born in Zaandam, the Netherlands. In 1938, at the age of 22, he left to the former Dutch East Indies as a soldier for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL). He was stationed in Batavia as lithographer for the Topographical Service, and spent his free time capturing all he saw in Batavia in drawings, gouache, and watercolours. Since childhood his passion had been the arts, particularly drawing and painting. Batavia hosted a vibrant art scene, and Smit visited every exhibition he could. In 1947 he befriended Auke Sonnega, and met other artists like the Mooi-Indië painter Ernest Dezentjé and Henk de Vos. In 1948 he hosted his first own exhibition in Kunstzaal Opbouw-Pembangoenan.

Following an honourable discharge from the Army in 1950, Arie Smit worked as lithographer and graphic designer for several publishers in Jakarta and Bandung. Besides his professional obligations, Smit also taught private drawing lessons. In his spare time he diligently worked on his own, ever-expanding oeuvre. He experimented in both style and technique in the pursuit of personal development. “I am constantly changing, and do not object to doing so. Whether romantic or cubic, abstract or realistic. Once I embrace a certain style I truly commit. I want to know all about this”, he wrote in a letter to his family. Smit befriended other artists such as Ries Mulder, a fellow painting tutor at the Akademi Seni Rupa Bandung, and Mulder’s students But Mochtar and Popo Iskander. The work of these cubist artists intrigued Smit. At the Bandungse, the internationally oriented academy, abstracted art was taught. Influences from Auke Sonnega, who painted in a very modern and partially abstracted style, are found too in Smit’s paintings of the time. A distinct mix of abstract and figurative art can be observed.

At a 1955 exhibit of work by members of the Balinese artist collective Pita Maha, Smit met painter Rudolf Bonnet. Bonnet advised him to travel to Bali, since this would benefit the progress in his work. Shortly after the end of a June 1956 solo exhibition in Balikpapan (Borneo), Smit made the decision to travel to Bali. Following a visit to Rudolf Bonnet in Tjampuhan with Auke Sonnega, Smit travelled to Sanur, where he visited art merchant and gallery owner James Pandy. Smit had previously met Pandy at the 1955 Pita Maha exhibit. Pandy owned a prestigious gallery near the Sanur Beach: Pandy’s Art Gallery. The men became good friends, and Smit regularly stayed in one of Pandy’s beachside houses to paint. Over time, Pandy began exhibiting Smit’s work in his gallery and became Smit’s first art intermediary.

The overwhelming beauty of Bali deeply impressed Arie Smit. The sea became a beloved subject of his paintings. Although Smit settled in Saba two months after arrival, many of his works were produced in Sanur. Within this 1957 period, the painting Sanur and Rice Goddess forms a breath-taking exception, as it is painted in the partially abstracted style Smit adopted in Bandung. In the foreground we see Dewi Sri, the rice goddess, depicted as a tjili – a Balinese sacrificial figure made of palm leaves and rice ears. The sun beams down over the sea, canoes are beached, and people are working. Smit’s trademark vibrant palette informs the Balinese atmosphere of the painting. “My colours have become irresistible, which is a secret Bali has revealed to me”, he writes his family back home in 1957.

Luciënne Smit Author ‘Arie Smit - a Painter's life in the Tropics’

€ 25.000,00
€ 35.000,00
€ 48.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 48.000

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