Lot 1054
  • 1054

S. Sudjojono

600,000 - 800,000 HKD
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  • S. Sudjojono
  • Pulang Bawa Kaju (Bringing Wood Home)
  • Signed, stamped with a monogram of the artist, inscribed and dated 1968
  • Oil on canvas


Jakarta, Pakarti Center - CSIS, A Solo Exhibition of Seabad S. Sudjojono, "S. Sudjojono: Seni, Hidup dan Peninggalan (Art, Life and Legacy)", 11 - 22 December 2013, Santy Saptari


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is evidence of very light wear to the edges of the work due to abrasions with the frame, but this does not affect the overall image. The paint layers are healthy overall. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals very few minor pinhole sized spots of restoration at sky (on the left side and right sight of mountain) and a six minor pinhole sized spots of restoration at the center of the river. Framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

“The New Painting does not propagandize beauty or goodness, but propagandizes the truth to each and everyone.” –S. Sudjojono


S. Sudjojono, undoubtedly one of the most significant figures in modern Indonesian art history,was born in 1913 to a modest Javanese family working in Kisran, a small plantation village in North Sumatra. Living in what was then a Dutch colony, Sudjojono found that his motherland was grappling between its subservient realities as a colonized land and the potential for a more liberated and righteous existence, coupled with revolutionary triumph. Ubiquitously regarded as a gregarious youth with an open mind and strong character, this visionary was not afraid to criticize what he felt was wrong, enlighten others and consequently, propagate changes.


Having grown up during the verge of a national awakening, Sudjojono felt that the European conventions of beautiful art, which prevailed in Indonesia at the time, presented a falsified view of his nation. He brusquely deemed these romanticized works insincere and idealized, coining the term Mooi Indië (Beautiful Indies) to describe this pre-existing aesthetic phenomenon. Mooi Indië paintings would rejoice in the feminine ideal, indigenous traditions, untouched vistas and pastoral representations of farmers, all without delving deeper into the human condition. In an effort to shatter the rose-tinted glasses through which these depictions of his nation were filtered, Sudjojono not only created rebellious works that acted as an extension of his political goals, but he was a fervent advocate for a pan-Indonesian art movement.


The zealous artist delighted in engaging with people from various backgrounds, from farmers to art collectors to government officials such as Adam Malik, the former foreign minister of Indonesia. It only came naturally to him to encourage new dialogues, gather artisans and provide them with the appropriate platforms to redefine modern Indonesian art, such that it would reflect the candid soul of their nation. Sudjojono was heavily involved with numerous groups such as POETERA (1943), Keimin Bunka Sidosho (1943) and SIM (1946). Along with his comrade and fellow artist Agus Djaja, Sudjojono was the founder of Persatuan Ahli-ahli Gambar Indonesia (Association of Indonesia Drawing Specialists, 1938), colloquially known as Persagi, an organization that congregated indigenous artists who yearned to regain authority over Indonesia’s artistic legacy. Sudjojono stated in Persagi’s mission statement:


"The new artist [will] no longer paint only the peaceful hut, blue mountains, romantic or picturesque and sweetish subjects, but also sugar factories and the emaciated peasant, the motorcars of the rich and the pants of the poor youth; the sandals, trousers, and jacket of the man on the street. This is our reality." 


The inscription on the present lot, Pulang Bawa Kaju (Bringing Wood Home) is already so telling of the artist’s focus. Though Sudjojono depicts a majestic landscape, he highlights the importance of the man in the foreground who thrusts his arms upwards in order to balance a heavy load of wood over his head. Suspended in the skies directly above the man is a looming, dark cloud, which emerges from behind the mountain and protrudes into the foreground. With the promise of rain, this heavy, gray cloud appears as a stark juxtaposition from the soothing orange, yellow and blue atmosphere, casting a shadow upon the left side of the composition. Herein lies an earnest picture of the circadian struggle of the common man, who bears a physical weight over his head and accepts the whims of nature.


By painting the farmer’s reflection in the water beneath him, Sudjojono skillfully lengthens his form and further emphasizes his presence, which is otherwise made inconspicuous by the glorious mountain behind him. The landscape brims with delightful details, from a farmhouse perched in the middle ground, winding streams leading the man home, and distant flashes of yellow light suggestive of life. This rural vista underlines Sudjojono’s owns brand of realism, suggesting the progression of his style towards more serene subjects painted with an expressive palette.


Compositionally, Sudjojono’s work fulfills the mystical requirements of traditional Shan Shui paintings, a style of Chinese landscape painting that features mountains and water bodies. In Pulang Bawa Kaju, Sudjojono permeates the work with numerous pathways that mimic the trails nature already creates. The sinuous outlines of the meandering river emulate the concave formations of the plateaus behind it, while the water body directly below the man mirrors the cloud directly above him. The multi-layered composition deepens the image, creating a sense of vastness. While the mountain is the ‘threshold’ of the painting, which welcomes the viewer’s eye at first glance, the man is the ‘heart’ of the work, as all focal points of the painting lead towards him. The man, the mountain and the winding lines serve as elements that infuse the work with a sense of stable balance and strong composition. The mountain’s soaring formation stands as a protective being, towering over the man so rooted in his natural milieu.


Sudjojono was evidently inspired by unbiased and authentic representations of his homeland that blatantly differ from the fanciful and exotic landscapes of the Mooi Indië. His oeuvre challenged old paradigms, all the while introducing new modes of expression. He stands as an artist who truly empathized with those with the poor and the hardworking, those with weathered skin. For Sudjojono, beauty did not necessarily equate the ideal, but it existed within the reality of the authentic human condition.