Last week, while in Bali, I fell in love all over again… with a newly discovered painter, Arie Smit. I had gone to Bali expecting paradise, sort of like Gauguin’s Tahiti. Bali was a kind of paradise, though not the kind I expected (stay tuned for a fully detailed account of the trip), but in the paintings of Arie Smit at the Neka Art Museum in Ubud, I found the perfect tropical oasis I had come in search of. Life is like that… never as paradisical as one artist’s view might be.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Smit served in the Dutch East Indies military in 1938. After spending more than three years in labor camps in Singapore, Thailand and Burma, Smit traveled to Bali in 1958.
A colorist, he fell in love with what he saw in Bali: the villages, rice terraces, palm trees and temples. He decided to stay and paint.
In 1960, while touring the countryside of the Ubud district where he then lived, he came upon some boys drawing in the sand. Impressed by their talent, Smit invited them to his studio, where they promptly became the first of a growing number of students. With minimal instruction but lots of encouragement and material support, his pupils created a naive style of genre painting that became known as the ‘Young Artists’ style, which at its peak had 300-400 followers. Though he is considered the father of the movement, its style is quite different than any of Smit’s own styles over the years.
Read more about Smit here.