Modern art in Indonesia has its origins in the tension between the official art practice of the Dutch colonial rulers and the concern of some artists to re-establish their own Indonesian image content and forms.
The founder of modern Indonesian painting is considered to be Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman (* 1807, † 1880), who was trained by Europeans in Java and later in the Netherlands and Germany, who painted oriental animal and hunting scenes and portraits in the second half of the 19th century Dutch colonial officials and history paintings (e.g. “The Capture of Prince Diponegoro”, 1858; Jakarta, Presidential Palace) came to the public. According to cheeroutdoor, a modern Indonesian painting according to the western understanding did not begin until the artists’ association »Persagi«, founded in Jakarta in 1938, whose main spokesman was Sindu Sudjojono (* 1913, † 1986). Sudjojono In the late 1930s and early 1940s, wrote a series of articles against the then dominant landscape painting, whose exotic, sweet, romantic style v. a. the focus on the interests of foreign clients reflected. Although the Japanese colonizers prevented the Persagi from continuing to work in 1942, the artistic works and aesthetic writings and reviews of the artists involved in the association had a great influence on the following generations of artists. Step by step the avant-garde tried to free itself from Dutch patronage. The style demanded by the colonial officials and foreign entrepreneurs working in Indonesia was downgraded by the progressive artists as »Mooi-Indie«. Instead, they asked for content which take into account the real conditions of country and population, and their visual implementation in an expressive style adapted to modern painting. The polarization of the artistic situation by the »Persagi« artists on the motto »East versus West« helped the Indonesian artists in their search for identity. At the same time, some of the local artists attacked by »Persagi« but valued by the Dutch had such as Abdullah Surio Subroto (* 1878, † 1941), Mas Pirngadie (* 1865, † 1936) and Wakidi (* 1889, † 1980) were important because they were the teachers of the later rebels. In addition, a number of artists who descended from European-Indonesian families, as well as Indonesians themselves, use the »Mooi-Indie-Style« as a means of transport for their very own idea of the mountain as the balancing force of nature, as a source of a typical Indonesian spirituality, practiced.
Various European artists contributed to the spread of international modern painting in the 20th century, especially in Bali. the German Walter Spiess (* 1895, † 1942), who worked for many years in the artists’ colony in Ubud alongside like-minded people and (like Sudjojono in Java) supported the Balinese artists in their search for their own artistic identity. Spiess issued, inter alia. Lessons in a European perspective and anatomy.
After Indonesia’s independence in 1945, two divergent academic art schools emerged (named after the places where the art institutes are located):
- The Bandung School (establishment of the Seni Rupa dan Design [Faculty of Art and Design] faculty in 1947), which focused more on abstract art production.
- The Yogya School (foundation of the Seni Rupa dan Design faculty in 1950), which placed the emphasis on the production of extremely representative works of art.
In the 1970s, the “Kelompok Seni Rupa Baru” (“New Art Group”) neutralized the opposition between the Bandung and Yogya Schools. Important artists of the first decades after independence were among others. Ahmad Sadali (* 1924, † 1987), Srihadi Soedarsono (* 1931), But Muchtar (* 1930, † 1993), Mochtar Apin (* 1923, † 1994), Popo Iskandar (* 1927, † 2000) from Bandung and Affandi as well as Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan (* 1918, † 1983) and Widayat (* 1919, † 2002) from Yogyakarta. In addition, an art movement developed which, with the intention of offering an alternative to contemporary modern art, focused on the primitive art of Indonesia and anticipated its forms. This trend has survived to some extent in applied arts to the present day.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the diversity in the visions of the artists and their productions increased rapidly. Fusions between the different genres (painting, graphics, sculpture, applied art) are just as popular as installation and media art, whereby, in contrast to international western art, local themes and formal specifics of the Indonesian island world are increasingly included. So are z. B. Artists like Anusapati (* 1957), Heri Dono (* 1960), Krisna Murti (* 1957) and Nindityo Adipurnomo (* 1961)for their own Indonesian variant within the globalization of the visual arts language.