Balinese paintings are well-known for their different styles and artistic themes. Here, we’ll show you what kind of paintings you’ll come across on your bargain hunts at Bali’s art shops and art markets. Everything from traditional dye strokes on canvas, to the more contemporary art pieces, and even quirky items such as Easter egg-like art using eggshells of all sizes… there’s something for every art-lovers’ taste.
Shopping for Balinese paintings can be an eye-opening venture on its own, as you delve through the myriad rows of art styles with varied price tags (or without). You can start off in Ubud, generally considered the artistic and cultural hub of the island, while most other galleries and art markets elsewhere feature mass-produced pieces and collections. Balinese paintings are only a small portion of shopping ideas. For the whole roundup, read more.
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Types of Balinese Paintings
Balinese paintings can be classified into classic and modern. Until the 1920s, before the influence of Dutch and international artists who fell in love with and lived on the island, classical Balinese paintings were known to follow the Kamasan style, named after the village in the Klungkung regency in East Bali. A good example of the Kamasan style paintings can be seen covering the ceilings of the Kertagosa ‘hall of justice’ in the centre of Klungkung town, with much inspiration drawn from ‘wayang’ shadow puppet figures, depicting episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Modern Balinese paintings emerged after western artists, the likes of German painter Walter Spies, Dutch painters Rudolf Bonnet and Arie Smit, and Belgian Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur, lent a hand in the classic styles already known. Much of the themes then evolved to depict scenes of Bali’s allure as seen through the eyes of visitors, ranging from the island’s beautiful natural landscapes and rural life such as agrarian activities and fishing village scenes. Thus, some of the schools of modern Balinese paintings are named after their areas: Ubud and Batuan (rural rice fields) and Sanur (fishing village and seascapes). You may also find Renaissance-like influence in paintings that portray nudes.
Balinese artists are known for their creativity, and paintings aren’t bound only to canvas. The village of Batuan, 11km outside Ubud town, is a commune of painters who are also famous for their eggshell and seashell paintings and carvings in various styles and different sizes.
Where to Buy Balinese Paintings
You can find paintings sold at all art markets in Bali, with the Ubud Art Market in Ubud central being a good bet. You’ll need to roam past the front open-air stalls that sell imitation paintings in replicated styles, to discover the smaller kiosks lining the market’s backstreets that sell more genuine art and often double as their artist’s workshops and galleries. Most are sold at bargain prices. However, artist galleries usually have higher prices, considering the quality and authenticity that you get for purchasing a piece of personal and inimitable artwork.
As for egg paintings, there’s no better place to head to other than the producing village itself. The Banjar Penida commune of egg painters in the village of Batuan, Sukawati, has many households making a living from the art. You can choose from many different mediums used, ranging from chicken eggshells to larger emu and ostrich eggs. Most are sold with pedestals. Any Balinese painting style are applied to egg paintings, be it Kamasan ‘wayang’ puppet figures to cartoonish and fun caricature-like themes.
Buying a Balinese Painting – How Much?
Most paintings in Bali are sold in elaborate wooden frames for better presentation, although some sellers also sell their paintings like loose leaves or hanging from displays and without any borders. With paintings sized over 50cm in length, you can have the shopkeeper dismantle your chosen item from its frame, roll and tie the canvas for easier carrying. Should you decide to buy the frame as well, inspect the quality of the wood (non-treated wood will usually be confiscated by customs at your home airport) and ensure the frame corners are marked for easy reassembling at home.
As they say, you can’t really put a price on real art. But you can expect imitation paintings in Bali to be sold anywhere from as cheap as IDR 25,000 (under USD 2) for a simple, small 30x30cm size painting, to well over IDR 1 million (over USD 75) for a 1-metre length of oil on canvas. For egg paintings, it depends on both the quality of the painting and the egg medium used. Duck eggshell paintings are around IDR 50,000 (around USD 4), while the largest ostrich and emu egg paintings can be worth well up to IDR 1 million.