Soekarno's painting, dubbed Rini (Photo: Wulandari)

She doesn’t look like his mother or one of his nine wives

Retno Wulandari   04 August 2016 06:04 - Indonesian founding father Soekarno was a political virtuoso known for his skills as an orator, which helped propel the nation to freedom. But few know that the first president of Indonesia was also a painter.

A work called Rini is proving to be one of the stars of the show at the 17/71 Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan exhibition, which is opens State Palace artwork to the public for the first time.

The painting depicts a woman from one side. The lady in the painting has a slender figure and a beautiful face with a pointed nose. But her expression is rather cold, without a smile. A white flower sits tucked between the curls of an elegant bun and her ear. Like a typical Javanese woman, she wears a green kebaya with matching batik drapery, but no one knows who she really is.

Soekarno's Painting, Rini
© 2016 Wulandari

Soekarno painted the woman with oil on canvas while he was on holiday in Bali in 1958. 

The mysterious figure in the painting makes the artwork special. Dozens of curators and art critics have tried to interpret the hidden meaning, with no success.

According to art critic Agus Dermawan, some people believe Sarinah, Soekarno's childhood nurse, is actually the woman in the painting.  She was a woman he respected greatly, but no one has been able to confirm this.

Aside from the lingering mystery, the 50 x 70-centimeter painting also showcase Soekarno’s superb skills in art.

“The technique (used to create this painting) was beyond average. Painting human anatomy from one side is never easy, and one remarkable part is her (the lady in the painting’s) hands. (From the shading, we know that) she has olive skin, and painting lights and shadows like this  are also tricky. From the color aspect, the green, brown, black and sepia mixed in harmony,” said exhibition curator Mikke Susanto.

During his lifetime, Soekarno collected over 2,800 paintings. 28 of them are currently on show as part of the Presidential Palace Artworks Exhibition at Galeri Nasional in Gambir, Central Jakarta. The exhibition is open throughout August and is free of charge.

People are enjoying Presidential Palace's artwork collection
© 2016 Wulandari

The paintings are mostly derived from Soekarno's personal collection
© 2016 Wulandari





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