Antonio Maria Blanco: A Nude Balinese Kebyar Dancer

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Antonio Blanco was born on September 15, 1912 in Manila to Catalonian parents who had come to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He was educated at the American Central School in Manila and continued to study at the National Academy of Art in New York under Sidney Dickinson. After becoming an American citizen, he studied painting in New York City. He also visited Cambodia where he was a special guest of Prince Sihanouk. After traveling in Hawaii and Florida, he came to Bali in 1952 where he gained recognition as an eccentric and outlandish character and painter.

When settling in Bali in 1952, Antonio Blanco set up a studio in Campuhan. At his studio in Campuhan he initiated to create his most famous paintings of the beautiful women of Bali. Blanco was a patron of freedom and beauty, and he married a Balinese model and dancer, Ni Ronji in 1953 who later became his muse and eminent model of his works. Learning from the style of Willem Hoftker and being influenced by Dickinson’s style, Blanco kept on creating the audacious and sensual images of bare breasted Balinese women like this Nude Balinese Dancer piece. Blanco illustrated this Nude Balinese Dance scene related to the art of beauty of Balinese Kebyar dancer tradition in Bali. Kebyar Dance is a dancer interpreting the music feels with her facial expressions and supple moves. As a well-known painter, Blanco armed with his skillfully brushwork was able to record the dance show stage of the audacious and sensual images of bare breasted woman wearing the complexities of ornament accessories as well as facial expressions and supple body moves as if following the music of Kebyar dance. Many his lovers and connoisseurs explain that Blanco was influenced by European art forms, including Renaissance nudes and the “recreated reality” of Salvador Dali’s work. That is why his heritage studio in Campuhan was exotically rebuilt and then it was named as The Blanco Renaissance Museum. This work of art is expressive character them for Blanco’s best artwork, and is also equipped with a hand-made special wood frame carved in Balinese style marking “Blanco” at the top of frame.

Antonio Blanco passed away in 1999, and after his death his studio in Campuhan was turned into The Blanco Renaissance Museum commemorating Antonio Blanco’s artworks, as well as the Balinese culture he adored. Blanco became a favorite of Asian noblemen society, and his works of art have been very much in demand in the world art market and museums. Many worldwide collectors have appreciated his paintings, including the actress Ingrid Bergman, Mexican Telenovela queen Thalia (Ariadna Thalia Sodi Miranda), Michael Jackson, Sukarno (the first President of Indonesia), Suharto (the second President of Indonesia), the former Indonesian Vice President Adam Malik, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and many more. Therefore, it is not irrefutable that Blanco received many world awards, including the Tiffany Fellowship from the United States, New York Cities Cannon Prize, and the Honorable Mention at the Honolulu Academy of Art. Blanco was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the National College in Windsor, Canada. Blanco’s well-known works include the lithograph The Virgin of Bali, and paintings such as My Castle of Dreams (1962), The Cinderella of Bali (1964), Eve’s Apple is Still Intact (1967), and Odalisque (1969).

Blanco’s works painted oil on canvas with Balinese dancing subjects have been sought-after in market until today. His works are the record-breaking prices at auction, major exhibitions at galleries and international art spaces. For example, compare with his work entitled to “Balinese Dancer with meditating Lord Ardjuna” (seize:  85 x 70 cm) dated to 1963, that was sold at Larasati Auctioneers, 26 Jan 2013, Marina Bay Suites Sales Gallery, Singapore, lot. 33. The piece was previously estimated between US$121,784 – US$178,617 (SGD 150,000 – SGD 220,000), and it was sold for US$328,819 (SGD 405,000) excluding buyer’s premium. (see fig. 1). In fact, the past decade, Blanco’s ‘Balinese Dancer’ work had been appreciated by connoisseurs and collectors in the market for its splendor. For example, his work entitled to ‘The Bumbled Dance” (size: 112 x 67.5 cm) was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 25th November 2007, lot. 108, previously estimated between US$30,864 – US$51,440 (HKD 240,000 – HKD 400,000), and it was sold for $154,320 (HKD 1,200,000), excluding buyer’s premium (see fig. 2).

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