Wed, 03 Jan 1996

From: Jawawa

Indonesian art world mourns realist painter Dullah

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia's fine arts lost one of its finest figures when the country's most prominent realist painter Dullah died on the first day of l996.

Painter Dullah, 76, died of complications caused by a combination of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lower respiratory tract infection at the Panti Rapih hospital in Yogyakarta. He was pronounced dead shortly after being rushed to the hospital from the home of one of his grandchildren in Blunyahrejo village.

A few weeks ago, Dullah had been released from Kustati hospital in Surakarta, where he was treated for pneumonia.

Dullah was buried next to his wife, Jan Jaerabby Fatima, at Purwoloyo cemetery in Surakarta last Tuesday afternoon. He is survived by his adopted son, Sawarno.

On Dec. 31, Dullah and his family held a gathering to celebrate New Year's Eve in Blunyahrejo. He became ill, with blood coming out of his mouth, during that gathering.

Dr. Soeliadi H.W. from the Panti Rapih Hospital said that Dullah's chronic cardiovascular problems and diabetes, as well as a lung infection, contributed to his death.

In June l993, Dullah suffered a stroke. Although he lost full control of his right hand, this did not discourage the artist from working. He succeeded in completing several sketches with his left hand.

Due to his illness, he had to close his museum, the Dullah Museum in Surakarta in l993. The museum holds more than 500 paintings, including rare works by Raden Saleh, Abdullah, Basuki Abdullah, Affandi and several other prominent painters.

The museum also houses 100 important drawings recording the battle of Yogyakarta, which involved the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) troops and Dutch soldiers. The drawings, which were made by Dullah's students in the l940s, have become significant historical assets to the nation.

Dullah planned to re-open the museum in the middle of January.

Sawarno, Dullah's son, said that the re-opening of the museum may be delayed until some time in February, after the traditional commemoration marking the 40th day of the painter's death.

Dullah, the eldest of five brothers, was born in l9l9. His mother Kati was a batik maker and painter.

Dullah is known as one of Indonesia's pioneer realist painters. He first picked up the brush at the age of 16 and is known mainly for his paintings depicting Indonesia's guerrillas during the independence war against the Dutch colonial forces in the second half of the 1940s.

Dullah is therefore known as a revolutionary period painter. Through his canvases, Dullah recorded a series of historic events and the grim memories of the country's pre-independence period. Together with painters S. Sudjojono and Affandi, he joined Indonesia's independence movement Putra (Pusat Tenaga Rakyat), which was led by the top Indonesian nationalists and politicians of the time, Sukarno, Moh. Hatta, as well as other prominent figures, such as Ki Hadjar Dewantara and K.H. Mas Mansjur.

Art critic Agus Dermawan T. commented that Dullah's major achievement was his capability to depicting the daily lives of ordinary people in such a way as to convey their aspirations.

"He was the one who could precisely put people's emotions on canvases," said Agus Dermawan, who is now preparing a 170-page biography of Dullah entitled Lukisan Rakyat Dullah, Dullah's Paintings of the People.


Dullah's friendship with other painters widened his horizons and brought fresh ideas. "I learned how to appreciate paintings and other artwork from Sudjojono," Dullah once recalled.

From Affandi, he obtained valuable techniques for painting, and from the painter Ernest Dezentje he learned to create impressive landscapes.

Dullah produced 700 paintings, many of which belong to art collectors here and abroad. Some are on display at his museum.

One of his most famous paintings, Preparation for Guerrilla War in Yogyakarta, hangs at the State Palace in Jakarta .

His activities in the independence movement resulted in his incarceration at the Hoofd Bureu van Politie prison run by the Dutch colonial administration.

After World War II started, Dullah was imprisoned by the Japanese at Kempetai prison in Timuran village, Surakarta.

In l947, he moved to Yogyakarta where he became involved in another organization, the Young Painters's Association, chaired by the painter Rusli. Dullah and his colleagues received special orders from the newly-established Indonesian government to create posters, frescoes and drawings on the Indonesian independence struggle in order to keep the revolutionary spirit alive among the populace of the archipelago.

His cooperation with the nation's top political figures during the revolutionary period earned him a place at the presidential palace in Jakarta after the war. Indonesia's first president Sukarno appointed Dullah the official painter of the presidential palace, a post he held from l950 to l960. Dullah also acted as curator of the president's huge collection of art.

Sukarno also asked Dullah to take care of Indonesia's first red-and-white flag. Dullah was also ordered to modify the position of the Garuda, a giant eagle, in the nation's emblem. Previously, the Garuda gripped the ribbon inscribed with the nation's motto, Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Dullah was ordered to place the ribbon in front of the eagle's feet.

Palace painter

Dullah's job as palace painter drew criticism from his fellow artists. Despite the unpleasant comments, Dullah kept on producing high quality paintings. But perhaps his greatest contribution to the local fine art world was his tireless effort to document rare paintings, reproductions and other artwork belonging to the late president Sukarno in four books. The books were published by the People's Arts Center in Beijing. "They are the first written documents on the Indonesian fine arts," Dullah once said.

After retiring from the palace, Dullah went back to Surakarta and joined Himpunan Budaya Surakarta, the Surakarta Cultural Center, where he shared his talents and expertise with younger artists.

He also established Sanggar Pejeng, an art workshop, in Bali in l974. Dullah taught painting to hundreds of students in his Balinese workshop until l983.

Agus Dermawan said that Dullah was a highly consistent artist. Dullah maintained realism as his style of painting although many artists considered it an out-of-date style.

In Europe and other western countries, the style was left behind by painters for almost 100 hundred years. In Indonesia, realism has been considered unfashionable for more than 40 years.

Dullah believed that any style in fine arts was like a cycle of life. He believed that trends in art would come full circle back to their original point. His prediction seems to be coming true now, with many young artists turning to realism.

"It seemed Dullah was waiting for the cycle to fulfill itself. He left the world just as many artists are adopting realism -- the style he insisted on using throughout his life," Agus said. (raw)