Raden Saleh’s masterpieces on display at National Gallery
Raden Saleh, Lion Hunt. http://radensaleh.jerin.or.idOver 40 paintings and drawings by Raden Saleh, the colorful artist often referred to as the “father of Indonesian modernity” will be displayed in the National Gallery, Jakarta, starting this Sunday amid allegations of widespread forgery of the works of several Indonesian masters.
According to the exhibition’s statement, the exhibition is the first ever monographic display of Raden Saleh’s work in Indonesia.
The artist was born in Semarang, C. Java, in 1811, when Indonesia was still a colony of the Dutch. He traveled to Europe when he was around 18 years old and spent over 20 years there, training as a painter.
“There was no other painter in the colony — European or Javanese — who was [Raden Saleh]’s equal.
He was largely responsible for broad segments of the Javanese elite discovering, during the second half of the 19th-century, that realistic painting … could constitute an aesthetic pleasure. These first small steps marked the start of Indonesian art’s journey towards the vibrant scene it has become today,” Curator Werner Kraus says in his exhibition notes.
Raden Saleh’s paintings comprise portraits, scenes involving animals, especially lions, and landscapes. One of his famous paintings, depicting the capture of national hero Pangeran Diponegoro, is said to contain hidden nationalistic symbolism.
The master’s reputation extends beyond that of an acclaimed painter. He was also known as an architect, a landscape gardener and a collector of ethnographic and archaeological documents.
He was known for his idiosyncratic and somewhat flamboyant fashion style as well, as he was said to design his own costumes, which combined various styles including Javanese and European. Thus, he is sometimes dubbed as Indonesia’s “first fashion designer”.
Despite the substantial time he spent in Europe, Raden Saleh was said to have remained loyal to his roots. He returned to Indonesia —or the Netherlands East Indies as it was known then — and was said to have tried to introduce modernity to various cultural and scientific aspects. However, he became disenchanted with the treatment he received from the colonial powers in his homeland.
The exhibition, titled “Raden Saleh and the Beginning of Modern Indonesian Painting” is scheduled to run until June 17, and will feature, apart from the original drawings and paintings, the reproduction of works that cannot be brought to Indonesia.
It will include various events such as a wayang performance on the opening day, a fashion show in which local fashion designers have been invited to participate in a competition with Raden Saleh as its inspiration, and an essay competition, which calls for essays highlighting the artist’s personal and artistic achievements.
The fashion show is scheduled on June 9 and a discussion about Raden Saleh is scheduled to be held a week later.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.