Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Before the colonialization era in the 17th century by the Dutch, Indonesia has a vibrant tradition of Hindu–Buddhist art and architecture, which India deeply influenced from the 1st century CE. From the 1st century onward, Indonesia's conversion of art and culture has been shaped by various interactions between indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. The acculturation of art and ideas back then was caused by Indonesia's strategic location in the ancient trading routes. These intersections of trading routes influenced the nation's art styles ranging from the multitude of religions and cultures.

Oil on Canvas, 140 cm x 120 cm
Insinuation by Mahdi Abdullah

Owing to Grimm Lauren's journal in "The Evolution of Indonesian Art," arts were often associated with religious or spiritual activities during the pre-colonialization era, mostly in sculptures and architecture. The painting process is only utilized to decorate "Wayang" puppets, masks, and batiks. However, the painting process began to receive new attention with the westernization movement during the Netherlands occupation in the Indonesia archipelago.

Until the 18th century, the westernization of art began to develop in Indonesia with a small group of artists that traveled to Europe to study European realism. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, these artists started integrating a variety of European art styles. One of the most renowned artists in that era is Raden Saleh. He was entitled as the first Indonesian artist who paints in western styles of painting. The European styles are deeply influenced Saleh in most of his oeuvre.