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Willem Gerard Hofker: Ni Dablig

By 12 november 2013No Comments
Twice a year, our auction house organises sales of Indonesian paintings. Our next auction on the 11th of December 2013 is a very important one. As is custom with our auctions, nearly all paintings have never been on the market before. The sale comprises more than 100 lots of Indonesian art. One of the star lots is this painting by Willem Gerard Hofker (1902-1981), with an estimate of € 250.000 – 350.000.

W.G. Hofker, Ni Dablig ‘Het kleden voor ‘t feest’, 55 x 40 cm.
Click on image to enlarge.
Hofker had a wide range of models when he resided in Balibetween June 1938 and December 1943. He considered Dablig as one of his favourite models during the first few years on the island. In fact, Hofker was on Dablig’s courtyard quite often, not only to draw and paint her, but other girls as well, like Ni Tjawan. In 1938 and 1939, Hofker portrayed Ni Dablig at least 9 times in paintings, and on at least one more occasion in 1945 in Makassar, copying one of the paintings from 1939. Apart from that, she was portrayed in numerous conté crayon drawings, some of which were preparatory drawings for oils.
Ni Nyoman Dablig was born in Denpasar, Bali, around 1920. She was trained (and occasionally portrayed by Hofker) as a weaver. After the war she married and had a son. Having had a quite unhappy marriage, a divorce and even an imprisonment resulting from that separation, Dablig experienced many hardships during her long life. In December, 2010, she passed away. One of her best friends, and also a well-known Hofker model, Ni Gemblong, died only three months after that.

Ni Dablig and a neighbour child

The reason Dablig looks down on most of Hofker’s paintings and drawings is not only because of her native culture, where it is considered more civilised and humble to look down instead of straight into one’s face, but also because of the fact that Ni Dablig was slightly cross-eyed. However, this did not prevent Hofker from asking her to be his model quite often: obviously Hofker –like no other- saw the beauty she had in her posture and her expression.
‘…ineens was het schemer en donker….Wim is weer met zijn geliefde model Dablig in het atelier en met allerlei donker rode, gouden en geruite lappen bezig, om een nieuw schilderij op te zetten. Het buiten schilderen is door het onbestendige weer onmogelijk.’

’…all of a sudden, dusk and darkness set in… Wim is in the studio again with his beloved model Dablig, experimenting with all kinds of dark red, golden and checkered cloths, in order to start a new painting. Painting outside has become impossible because of the unsettled weather.’
(Maria, in a letter from Denpasar, July 16, 1939)

The rather atypical background, a curtain that seems to be positioned like this especially for the modelling session, and perhaps because of the weather circumstances, isolates Ni Dablig from her natural rural habitat, and focuses the viewer’s eye on her even more. The seemingly nonchalant placement of the little girl (probably little Made), kneeling ‘jongkok’, and the Singha (winged lion), makes the composition more exciting, and the occlusion gives the whole scene more depth.
The combination of Dablig’s elegant posture, extraordinary background, and the rich yet subtle composition with the little girl and the singha, make this painting into one of the highlights of Hofker’s early Balinese oeuvre.

Seline Hofker & Gianni Orsini

More information about this auction:

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