Lot 57
Indonesian Art Auction | 24 November 2022
Raden Franciscus Xavier Basoeki Abdullah (1915-1993)

'Serajoedal' / The Serayu valley

signed 'B. Abdullah' (lower left); titled 'Serajoedal' (written on the reverse of the canvas)

oil on canvas, 40x59 cm

Provenance: -Sint Claverbond, Nijmegen.

The Association Sint (Peter) Claverbond was a service organization for Dutch RC Missionaries in the Dutch East Indies. It was founded in 1879. After some years it got the juridical form of a “foundation" or "stichting". The Jesuits worked since 1859 in Indonesia. In the first decades they worked mainly for the Europeans, the settlers, and the military. In 1897 father Frans van Lith moved to Muntilan, in Central Java, where he eventually founded an Academy for Teachers. From then onwards indigenisation became the mission strategy: convert indigenous people with indigenous methods towards an indigenous Christianism. The baptism of Raden Basoeki Abdullah fits this picture. With a scholarship of the Jesuit Mission Office Claverbond he came to The Hague, 20 years old. As token of friendship he bequeathed paintings to his sponsors. Today, the Jesuit Mission Office supports the work of, mainly, indigenous Jesuits in Indonesia, India, Africa, and the Middle East.

Basoeki Abullah (1915-1993) is sometimes called THE representative of the 'Mooi-Indie' school. That name was coined by the revolutionary painter Sindardosono Sudjojono and is meant as a criticism. Basoeki's work was said to be without soul, without commitment. This view of Basoeki's work does him short. Basoeki's work is certainly not expressive revolutionary work; one could say that he has a different approach to Indonesian consciousness. He does not have to oppose the colonizer, he expresses his desire for independence for Indonesia by showing the grandeur of the Indonesian landscape, showing the heroes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the beauty of the Javanese women and men. Occasionally, social resolution seeps into his work, as in his work titled 'too much and too little rice' which shows a starving man confronted by two strong porters carrying heavy sacks of rice. Indonesia's first president, Soekarno was a great admirer of his work for good reason. Basoeki had met Sukarno at his second art exhibition that was organized by Prof. Wolff Schoemaker in 1933 in Bandung. Soekarno encouraged Basoeki to paint in his Indonesian nationalist style which Soekarno admired. Also keep in mind that one of Basoeki’s first artworks was a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the nationalist movement in India. He made this portrait as a student at the HIS, the preliminary school in the Dutch Indies.

The four lots in our auctions belonged to the Sint Claverbond. The two works depicting lively Javanese boys were shown during the exhibition in honour of the union’s 80th anniversary in 1959 (and 100 years Jesuit in Indonesia). But all four of them can be dated between 1933 and 1937. During this period Basoeki arrived in The Hague (early 1935), tasted success and the year he left with his The Hague-born wife whom he married in 1937 and returned to Indonesia. One could think that paintings with solely Indonesian subjects can only be painted in Indonesia, but in 1936 Abdullah had his first solo exhibition in the Victoria Hotel Amsterdam. We have an impression of the subjects shown there from two critics: a Javanese Maria, a portrait of a cardinal, Javanese people, and landscapes with mountains and water, plains and forests. It could be that the four paintings from the Sint Claverbond were amongst them. Our lots seem to fit the descriptions. Of course, we cannot be completely sure about the date of creation, but somewhere between 1933 and 1937 does seem plausible.

One of the critics, Kasper Niehaus was rather negative; ‘the word ‘tropical-kitsch’ (tropen-kitsch) is too harsh a word for them’. He suggests that Basoeki should choose to paint traditional Javanese art or completely adopt the European way of painting. The unknown ‘Handelsblad’ critic wrote far more positively about Basoeki Abdullah: ‘the quality of the construction and the colour are worth mentioning.[…] A deep tenderness and a healthy dose of romance speak out in these paintings. […] These paintings are witness to great love, to the deep attention given to the one that inspired the painter. The tone is very fine. […] Raden Basoeki’s work is well worth the wall space on a hall leading to the Damrak’. At the time of the exposition Basoeki was only 21 years old…

In our opinion, this unknown critic had a far better understanding of the character of Basoeki’s art. Although Basoeki did not appreciate bad criticism it did not affect his development; on the contrary, during his European years before and after WWII, he went his own way. He developed an excellent national Indonesian style with an allure that was recognized by eminent men such as President Soekarno and many other influential leaders from mostly Asian countries. The four lots are early examples of this superb Indonesian artist.

Literature: Frans Leidelmeijer and Chris Vellinga: 'Basoeki Abdullah in Den Haag', The Hague 2019

€ 2.000,00
€ 3.000,00
€ 8.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 8.000