The Balinese are famous for their artistic talents and craftsmanship, but unfortunately many of their best paintings have been taken overseas out of Indonesia. Borne out of this concern, the Ubud community together with renowned Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet built a museum to store artworks, in order to have these treasures remain in the home country so that the Balinese artists themselves will not also lose their identity.
Puri Lukisan began as an Institute in 1936 named Pita Maha, that was founded by Rudolf Bonnet and Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati (the Raja of Ubud 1910-1978), his brother prince Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati,and other famous artists. The Institute counted 125 members who lived all over the world. Activities included weekly meetings with an Ubud painter or woodcarver to discuss their creations.
After World War II, a new organisation was formed named the Ubud Painters Group on the initiative of I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati and Rudolf Bonnet. When more and more artists joined the Group, it was evident that the need for a Traditional Balinese Fine Arts Museum became more and more pressing.
The cornerstone for the Puri Lukisan Museum was laid by Indonesia’s former Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjoyo. The Museum was led by Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, while Rudolf Bonnet became its curator. The support given by former Bali Governor, Sarimin Reksodiharjo also influenced the development of the museum. Then in 1956 the Puri Lukisan Museum was officially opened to the public by then Education and Culture Minister, Mohammad Yamin.
The Museum’s collection was started with a contribution of paintings by Rudolf Bonnet, which was followed suit by other artists who supported the museum with contributions of their own works as well as purchased collections. The Museum reflected the invaluable beauty of paintings and sculptures by Balinese homegrown artists. In 1982, a special wing was built named the East Building that displays temporary creations. Today the Puri Lukisan Museum has grown into an active venue for the display of artworks by local painters and sculptors.
Paintings in this Museum include those by the Batuan artists of Ubud that depict daily life but through scary personalities like ghosts or witches. Since the paintings are dominated by the color black they are dark and foreboding. Another collection is that of the Sanur group that are erotic, show underwater life, animals and life at court reflecting harmony between humans and the environment.
As for Balinese modern wood sculptures, the museum displays creations of Ida Bagus Nyana, wellknown for his depiction of fearsome humans, as well as those of Tjokot, Balinese maestro, best known for his art of transforming tree branches and twigs into ghostly figures and other evil spirits.
The spirit of Pita Maha has been well preserved through the years, generating many new sculptors including I Muja, I Sama, I Sukanta Wahyu, I Widia and many more.
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