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RUDOLF BONNET (1895-1978) ‘Balinese young man holding a bamboo stick’

By 29 november 2016No Comments
RUDOLF BONNET (1895-1978) ‘Balinese young man holding a bamboo stick’
signed upper right, and dated ‘Bali 1957’ upper left,
crayon and pastels on paper, 68 x 46 cm.

To Rudolf Bonnet, beauty was the source of inspiration. He was especially fascinated by human beauty, which could either be the characteristic expression in a wrinkly old Anticolian face, or the powerful appearance of a young Balinese man. Bonnet was influenced by the Art Nouveau movement in the early 20th century; he was used to stylizing his model’s faces, often elongating them. Yet, they would never become caricatures; they would always remain dignified and autonomous. It was his way of emphasizing the beauty he perceived.

“My work might also be interpreted as a unit, as a single portrayal of a race. It is a story. The story of a peasant-class, preserved in its classical state and part of a people whose background spans the centuries. Still, one of these days that race will have vanished. So, considered from this viewpoint these hard faces are not portraits. They are the representatives of a race.” (Rudolf Bonnet)

Being an obvious admirer of the Renaissance, Bonnets body of work draws parallels with the art of Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564), whom he considered one of his greatest examples, not in the least because Buonarotti and Bonnet were both trained as mural painters. ‘Uomo universale’ like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo was highly respected as a painter, a sculptor, a poet, and an architect. He became world famous for his fresco paintings on the ceiling of the Vatican Sistine Chapel and the marble statue depicting David about to defeat Goliath. Rudolf Bonnet even had a reproduction of the iconic Creation of Adam (1508-1512) on display in his Ubud studio in the 1950s. It is no surprise that, to a certain extent, the present lot refers to the posture of the David (1501-1504). Of course, David is a Biblical hero, while Bonnets model is far from that. Apart from that, the Balinese youth is holding a bamboo stick, possibly used for goat herding, while David is holding a sling, with which he is about to kill Goliath. But then again, these two young men seem to be of similar age, have the same focus and perseverance in their eyes, and most importantly, both the Biblical young man and the Balinese young man look sideways, over their shoulders, while raising one hand; these are all signs of contrapposto, an asymmetrical posture of the human body, in the case of David caused by the weight being on one leg while the other is leaning sideways. Bonnet would become renowned for his drawings and paintings of Balinese people, seen from the back while looking over their shoulders, often with their faces en profile. It gives the model a more dynamic anatomy, which makes the drawing more attractive.

The trained eye of the artist reflects in the sparkling eyes of the Balinese sitter. Fluent lines, a hatched dark background to create more three-dimensional depth, the heightening with white pastel on coloured paper to emphasize the young man’s glossy skin, the subtle hues of blue to intensify his raven black hair, and the anatomically perfect rendering of the hand… it all proves the versatility and the dexterity of a full-fledged artist.

“Throughout his entire life, he drew them, the faces of men and women, and his style barely changed. They all have something in common, yet they all differ, because all portrayed remain themselves.” (de Roever-Bonnet, p. 82) 

Gianni Orsini, November 2016