Thursday, November 23, 2017
Indonesia’s Master of Realism

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Biography

Sudarso was born during the Dutch Colonial Rule of Indonesia in 1914.  Under Dutch rule Indonesian children were denied basic education, and specialized training like traditional art was unheard of.  Lower class children were destined to serve as laborers or delivery boys while aristocrats and intellectuals or civil servants were given special priorities.

This was also the case for Sudarso.  Yet as a delivery boy, one of his regular stops was delivering eggs and milk to his future teacher Affandi.  Sudarso would sit and watch for hours while Affandi painted.

Slightly irritated one day Affandi asked, “why do you like to watch me paint for hours and hours?”  Sudarso replied that he wanted Affandi to instruct him in drawing and painting.  Shortly after Affandi started giving him lessons and half used tubes of paint that initiated their life long friendship.

It may have been luck that led Sudarso to dedicate his entire life to painting, yet there was still much to overcome.  Contemporary painters from Indonesia had completely detached themselves from being Indonesian.  Sudarso chose to embrace his heritage and culture bringing many hardships but still art afforded Sudarso the ability to float through all realms of Indonesian Society.

Undiscovered or creative talent of any sort by Indonesians was overlooked by the Dutch.  They would belittle and degrade the potential of all indigenous peoples.
Exhibitions for Indonesian painters were unfathomable unless the painter spoke Dutch, dressed Dutch and was formally educated by a Dutch painter.

When the Japanese moved into Indonesia upon Germany invading Holland, they were astonished to find such a large body of brilliant work in painters that were exhibiting for the first time.

The Indonesian Art Scene began to flourish and Sudarso moved to Yogya and began teaching at Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia, the most prestigious art school of its day.  Further, he was head of the legendary “Pelukis Rakyat.”

He choose simple and happy, beautiful girls and young women as his subjects.  He found such amazing beauty and intensity in women but generally he is most noted for his rendition of feet and hands.  Everything about the feet and hands is realistic down to the smallest details.

On top of fathering a painting revolution, Sudarso, along with his wife Hj. Asiyah had 8 children.  Five of the children were boys and each one became a painter.  The youngest of these sons Sudargono or ‘Gono’ has established himself as an art figure to another generation of Indonesian painters.  Gono, is a strong and original abstract painter with a sense of color and texture unparalleled in art.  His paintings sell all over the world for thousands of dollars.

At this point in time , Sudarso’s paintings are extremely rare.  He has been collected by many museums and by private collectors around the world.  President Soekarno, the first president of the Republic of Indonesia, was his most notable collector and was also a close personal friend.

Sudarso passed away in 2006.  His contribution to Indonesian modern art was monumental as he taught and inspired generations while he further transformed art into political tool for Indonesians.