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Willem Dooyewaard (1892-1980), auction 4th of June

‘Balinese boy’
signed and ‘Bali’ lower left
canvas, 100 x 50 cm
€ 15.000 – 20.000

Dooyewaard was not merely a painter. He was a traveler, with a fascination for the Orient. After his studies at the Royal Acadamy of Art in Amsterdam, he spent 6 years at a rubber plantation in Sumatra, from 1913 til 1918, and set out for Bali in 1919. The following year he returned to Holland, only to go back to Bali within a few months. He eventually traveled to China, Mongolia, Tibet and Japan, where he met Jacoba, his wife to be, in 1930.

In 1919, when he visited Bali for the first time, he only made scribbly pencil drawings in a sketchbook, that can be described as academic at most. The lithographs he made upon his return in Holland transcend these sketches, although they are still made in a traditional way. After Dooyewaard met Roland Strasser (1895-1974) around 1921 though, his skills and style changed dramatically, and for the better. Strasser was 3 years his senior, and became his tutor. It is striking to see the artistic evolution of Dooyewaard’s work, after having met Strasser; mature, powerful, and decisive are words to describe his (or better: their) early 1920s style.

The current lot is an iconic example of this fierce style, somewhere in between impressionism and divisionism. Especially remarkable is the fact that the work
he made around 1922 is very similar to Strasser’s, to the extent that in some cases, without a signature it would be virtually impossible to tell the difference. Dooyewaard and Strasser would very often use the same model to portray, resulting in a number of intriguing ‘twin paintings’ of the two befriended artists.

Apart from this, it is remarkable that Dooyewaard more than often made anatomical studies of Balinese men. In particular the anatomy of the back must have fascinated him; several comparable studies in charcoal are known to exist (e.g. Koenraads, 1966, p. 86, 94 and Hamel, p. 28, 41, 83).

The current oil on canvas however stands out, because it has moved beyond the artistic qualities of a study. It is a full-fledged oil against a beautiful backdrop of a hanging cloth, that seems to merge with the texture of the young man’s naked features. The confident posture of the model, without any shame, but instead full of pride, adds a great deal to the powerful expression of the painting.

Although Dooyewaard was only 30, and still had a long career ahead, with this work he proved he was at the peak of his artistic talent.

Gianni Orsini, May 2015

This painting will be at auction on the 4th of June 2015.

More info about our auctions of Indonesian paintings:

René de Visser

Zeeuws Veilinghuis
Herengracht 74
4331 PX  Middelburg
0031 (0)118-650680