Bali’s unique natural and cultural scenes have inspired many artists, dancers, musicians, sculpters and (especially) painters. Some prominent world class painters such as Don Antonio Blanco, Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and Le Mayeur fell in love with the island, got inspired and created numerous paintings capturing the island’s landscapes before settling…

Text and Photos by Kartika D. Suardana

Bali’s unique natural and cultural scenes have inspired many artists, dancers, musicians, sculpters and (especially) painters. Some prominent world class painters such as Don Antonio Blanco, Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and Le Mayeur fell in love with the island, got inspired and created numerous paintings capturing the island’s landscapes before settling down in the Island of the Gods. Balinese born painters have also gained international recognition, including Bendi, Lempad and Made Wianta. Their works are proudly displayed in several museums on the island.


museum puri lukisan

Museum Puri Lukisan is located in the heart of Ubud, just a few steps away from The Ubud Palace. The history of the museum dates back to 1929 when Rudolf Bonnet, a Dutch born artist, arrived on the island. He introduced the ideologies, techniques and materials of Western Art to Bali. His cooperation with Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, the Prince of Ubud, initiated a new era in the Balinese art of painting.

In the museum compound, there are three huge buildings featuring traditional Balinese architecture. The first building is The Pitamaha Gallery, hosting a collection of Kamasan painting and Pre-War modern-traditional Balinese Paintings. In the same building one can also appreciate the works of I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, a legendary figure in the Balinese art community. The unique works of Lempad can be seen even before entering the building; his exquisite murals adorn the walls at the entrance. Inside the building, the works of Anak Agung Gde Sobrat and his contemporaries hang attractively on the walls for art lovers to appreciate. 


blanco renaissance museum

On the top of a hill in Campuhan Village in Ubud, lies an artistic, modern building, known as Blanco Renaissance Museum. The museum was built a few years before the Don passed away, thus the design and concept came from Antonio himself. His artistic touches can be seen right at the main gate before an uphill road to the car park. A marble gate adorned with a sculptured version of the maestro’s signature, known as the world biggest signature, welcomes visitors to the world of Antonio Blanco. The museum concept is to make the non-living alive, making people laugh and feel happy. Everything is built for a reason, the absence of windows in the building is aimed to nurture the idea that the outside world is different with the maestro’s world and the colourful wall is the reflection of the maestro’s mood; it changes colour as frequently as the clock ticks. 

Inside the museum one can savour the visual works of the multi-talented man who had been an actor in Hollywood and a writer before eventually dedicating his life to painting. He was a romantic expressionist who had had a very strong connection and deep appreciation of women. He adored women and worshipped the beauty of their bodies as God’s gifts. 


neka museum

In 1976, Suteja Neka, an art collector, began to build the Neka Art Museum with pieces of his own collection. Located in tranquil Ubud, the museum, which houses Neka’s personal collection of Bali inspired fine art, has expanded over the years to include other works from all over the archipelago to show the place of Balinese art within the wider national context. 

In the first hall, the Balinese Painting Hall, one can appreciate ancient puppet style paintings that depict narrative scenes from Indian epics, Balinese-Javanese literature, and almanac. Across a garden is the Arie Smit Pavilion which houses a number of the Dutch-born Indonesian artist’s paintings. Using his trademark “broken colours” technique, Smit’s vibrant paintings bring to life the quiet beauty and inner rhythms of Balinese landscapes, temples and people.

In the photography centre one can admire the beautiful old black and white photographs of Robert A. Koke. The Lempad pavilion displays a collection of unique works by Balinese artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad while hall 6 shows the works of Rudolph Bonnet, Theo Meier, Donald Friend, Paul Nagano and Antonio Blanco.


ARMA – agung rai museum of art

Agung Rai, the founder of ARMA, started collecting paintings from all over the world in the 1980’s. His vision was to establish a space to conserve the arts, his source of inspiration. The creation of ARMA is the manifestation of his vision. 

The museum not only displays an extensive collection of paintings from legendary Balinese artists but also showcases works by prominent artists from around the Indonesian Archipelago such as Jeihan Sukmantoro, Affandi, Srihadi Soedarsono and others as well as foreign artists who were inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape and culture of Bali. Those include Walter Spies, Theo Meier, Le Mayeur and Rudolf Bonnet. 

Inside the complex, there are two spacious buildings made from red brick, limestone and black stone, as the symbol of the natural colours, set among the grand garden completed with ponds and a fountain. See how Balinese painting has developed in the Bale Daja building where you can view traditional paintings from Balinese artists. Separated by an attractive garden, the second building is called Bale Dauh and it showcases modern paintings of several prominent artists from inside and outside Indonesia. Don’t miss Raden Saleh’s painting “The Regent of Magelang and his Wife,” or the immaculate works of Walter Spies. 


le mayeur museum

Andrien Jean Le Mayeur de Mepres, a legendary painter, was born in Brussels in 1880 and started living in the seaside town of Sanur in the early 30’s having bought a piece of land near Sanur Beach. He designed the interiors of his new home while a Balinese carver from Sanur was commissioned to carve the furniture. The house, which was heavily influenced by Balinese styles, was (literally) open to afford maximum exposure to the ocean breeze.  It was in this house that the painter knitted his famous love story with Legong dancer, Ni Polok, and captured the beauty other women on his canvases.

The house has now been converted into a museum boasting 88 exquisite pieces of impressionist painting. The painter’s creativity can be seen through his works as he used five different media to record his artistic inspiration: canvas, hardboard, plywood, paper, and bagor (plaited grass). WW2 made it impossible for canvas to be shipped from Belgium and so the painter switched to local bagor during this period. Using watercolour or batik colouring, the painter continued to transform his love for Ni Polok into beautiful paintings which can now be appreciated at the museum which was once his house.


museum rudana

Established in 1995, Museum Rudana displays an outstanding collection of Balinese and Indonesian classical, traditional, and contemporary paintings.  The collection is from prominent Indonesian artists; talented new Indonesian artists; and also expatriates who made Bali their source of creativity. 

The three-story museum building was designed according to the Balinese philosophy of Tri Angga (foot, body, and head) and Tri Mandala (inner court, middle court, and outer court). The main entrance leads to the second floor where a collection of contemporary paintings by famous Indonesian artists such as Made Wianta, Nyoman Gunarsa, and Sri Hadi Sudarsono are exhibited. On the third floor a collection of historical pieces are on display. There are works by traditional maestros from Ubud and Batuan such as I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, I Wayan Bendi, I Ketut Gelgel, Nyoman Sumantra, and you can also appreciate a collection of Kamasan Paintings with the oldest, which is an anonymous piece, dating back to 1860. Going down to the first floor, guests can view a unique collection of wood carvings.  

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