Willem Gerard Hofker: Doesjka Korthals in the Garden

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Willem Gerard Hofker (1902 – 1981) was born on May 3, 1902 in The Hague, and was a celebrated Dutch artist living in Bali – Indonesia, a former Netherlands East Indies. The artist attended the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague and later the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Hofker grew up surrounded by artists, like George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) and Isaac Israels (1865-1934) evolving the artist’s talent to create his oeuvres on cultural life, people, and artistic portraits. In early 1938, Hofkers and wife, Maria Hofker-Reuter, arrived by boat in Batavia (Jakarta). From Batavia they continued travelling to Bali. They were immensely affected by the prevalence of a cultural life in Bali, known then as the ‘Island of Gods, and they decided to settle there in period 1938 – 1946. At first, they lived in Denpasar, before moving to the artist’s village Ubud. Bali was the “Golder Years” of Mooi Indie (“Beautiful Indies”), which the Western artists presented idealized scene of landscape paintings in idyllic style that had been popular since late 19th century. Thus, Hofker created hundreds of paintings, drawings and watercolors elevating the Bali and Java cultures by highlighting the beauty and romanticism of women portraits, either Balinese or Dutch virgins.

As a world-wide legendary painter, Willem Gerard Hofker immortalized cultural life in Bali, known event then as the ‘Island of Gods’ through his marvelous works. He had an eye for beauty and chose Balinese and European girls as the model perpetuated on his oeuvres. When he found the beauty and his glamour, Hofker asked permission to paint her portrait. The figure of Doesjka Korthals depicted on the present work is one of his magnetizing works. When we look at her gleam face and graciousness, make our eyes blossom, and we are astounded by the miracle she emits. Everything is pure sweetness, and she was an angel picking flowers in the gorgeous garden in the era of 1955s. Doesjka Korthals is one of the iconic Dutch virgins selected as the artist’s premier model on his works. The portrait of Doesjka Korthals selected as Hofker’s model on the present work is an important clue that the exuberance of painting works executed by European artist in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in early to mid-20th century. There are some potraits of European girls painted on his works. For example, his work, entitled ‘Carla’ (47 x 46 cm), oil on canvas, sold at Christie’s Amsterdam, 22nd October 1997, lot. 156, for EUR 6,343, initially estimated between EUR 4,000 – EUR 6,000 (see fig. 1).

During the Japanese invasion in 1942, Hofker was captured and detained by the Japanese troops in December 1943, and he was released in 1944. Hofker and his wife then returned to the Netherlands in 1946 to avoid the uncomfortable political climate in Dutch-Indies (Indonesia). After a well political comate was at peak in 1950s, the artist occasionally visited Bali and produced his works.  The artist reproduced themes and subjects based on his destroyed paintings fashioned in a series of lithographs and etchings versions in various pose, composition and media.

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Hofker