Basoeki Abdullah: Flamboyant by the Village’s River

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Born on 1915 in Surakarta (Solo) – Central Java, Raden Basoeki Abdullah is considered as one of Indonesia’s most famous modern artists, and his main painting style is realism. As a realist and naturalist painter, Basoeki received formal training in the Hague – Netherlands, and during the Japanese colonialism of Indonesia, he was an art teacher at Poesat Keboedayaan (Cultural Center), a propaganda institution under Japanese colonialization. After the war II, in 1948, he became known internationally, winning an art contest on the occasion of the accession in The Netherlands of Queen Juliana. After returning to his homeland, Basoeki Abdullah was assigned by President Soekarno as one of the palace artists elevating the themes of Indonesia subject with full of Mooi-indie (Beautiful Indies) spirit style capturing the beauty and romantic of natural landscape, women, and other decorative styles. Supported with high technical and academic mastery, the artist received the numerous awards from the elites in the palace to grasroots of society in Indonesia. His career also echoed around the world, and the artist were frequently demanded by the renowned worldwide elites to paint their portraits, including the Duke of Edinburgh, President of Republic of Indonesia, Soeharto, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, President Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, King Bhumibol Adubyadej of Thailand, and Prince Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. At the end of his life, Basuki was beaten to death by three assailants during a break-in at his Jakarta home in 1993.

Entitled “Flamboyant by the Village’s River”, the present work was painted by Basuki Abdullah with soothingly romantic and naturalistic style illustrating scenery of the artist’s country landscape. The painting is depicted with flamboyant and its dense of foliage growing around the high buttress over the river with indigenous people in traditional river market. Painted in vibrant colors predominated in red, green, beige and purple, the scenery is matching with original condition of his homeland scenery. The present painting provides the viewers into tropical and sub-tropical region of Indonesia featuring the flamboyant and indigenous folks by the river of the rustic village. The artist evokes the audience to see the showy scenery with appealing scarlet flamboyant around, though we often roll our eyes at it. Flamboyant is an enamor flower, and it is ostentatious and exotic tree or shrub native to Madagascar that is widely planted in tropical regions, like in the artist’s country, for its immense racemes of scarlet and purple flowers.

Uniquely, subject on the present painting, the artist portrays a traditional floating market on the estuary of river, probably in Sungai Barito or Barito River located in Banjarmasin – South Kalimantan. This unique traditional market only appears in Barito region as a commercial transaction of folks on the boats over the river usually in the morning. The folks are enabled to shop and sell their daily needs, and it is used for social interaction between society as a mean of communication for nearby neighborhood of family and comrades living obstructed by the small rivers. For Basoeki Abdullah, flamboyant was his favorite flower depicted on his oeuvres with different themes. For example, a similar subject but absence of other three figures, entitled “Flamboyant in the Village”, 65 x 80 cm in size, was sold at Masterpiece Auction House, Jakarta, 24th March 2013, lot. 5, for IDR 340,000,000 or equivalent to US$34,000, excluding buyer’s premium, initially estimated between US$ 20,000 – US$ 30,000 or equivalent to IDR 200,000,000 – IDR 300,000,000 (see fig. 1). Another, entitled “Flamboyant” in different composition of landscape, 120 x 190 cm in size, was sold at 33 Auction Jakarta, 19th March 2017, lot. 35, for IDR 800,000,000 or equivalent to US$64,000, excluding buyer’s premium, initially estimated between IDR 850,000,000 – IDR 1,250,000,000 or equivalent to US$ 68,000 – US$ 100,000 (see fig. 2). Another, entitled “Flamboyant” with different landscape, 100 x 150 cm in size, was sold at 33 Auction – Singapore, 1st September 2013, lot. 11, for SGD 70,000 or equivalent to US$ 54,950, excluding buyer’s premium, initially estimated between SGD 70,000 – SGD 100,000 (see fig. 3). The figures on the present painting are also similar to the artist’s oeuvre entitled “Kampung Scene”, 75 x 100 cm in size, sold at Masterpiece Auction House, Jakarta, 29th January 2012, lot. 90, for IDR 380,000,000 or equivalent to US$ 41,800, excluding buyer’s premium, initially estimated between IDR 380,000,000 – IDR 500,000,000 (see fig. 4).