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 Arie Smit  (1916 - )

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Lived/Active: Netherlands/Indonesia      Known for: painting

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Sacred Banyan Tree
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Adrianus Wilhelmus (Arie) Smit (born April 15, 1916)

He is a Dutch-born Indonesian painter living on Bali.

Arie Smit was the third of eight children of a trader in cheese and confectionery.  His family moved in 1924 from Zaandam to Rotterdam, where Smit eventually studied graphic design at the Academy of Arts.  In his youth he was most inspired by the work of three artists named Paul (Signac, Gauguin and Cézanne).  He was sent to the Dutch East Indies for military service in 1938, where he worked as a lithographer for the Dutch army's Topographical Service in Batavia, engraving relief maps of the archipelago.  Etching Balinese mountains onto maps ignited his desire to one day go to Bali.

In early 1942 Smit was transferred to the infantry in East Java, but was soon captured by the invading Japanese forces.  He spent three and a half years in forced labor camps building roads, bridges, and railways in Singapore, Thailand, and Burma.  After the war ended in 1945, Smit was released and returned to the new Republic of Indonesia.  He became an Indonesian citizen in 1951 and taught graphics and lithography at the Institut Teknologi Bandung in West Java.  In his spare time he criss-crossed Java as a painter and in 1953 had his first exhibition in Palembang.

On invitation by the art dealer Jim Pandy he finally visited Bali in 1956, staying in a little house on stilts at the beach of Sanur.  Smit and Pandy would remain friends and formed a successful partnership.  Pandy was well-connected; Sukarno himself would sometimes bring his state guests to his small gallery.  With his love for bright colors, Smit was captured by the Balinese landscapes in its 'riotous light', and soon decided to stay to depict its villages, rice terraces, palm trees and temples.

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.

Since his arrival in Bali, Smit moved some 40 times, "to see what is beyond the next hill".  He stayed longest in his favorite areas of Karangasem and Buleleng.  He finally settled near Ubud in the village of Sanggingan under the patronage of Pande Suteja Neka, founder of the Neka Museum.

In recognition for his role in the development of painting on the island, Smit received the Dharma Kusuma (Society of National Heroes) award in 1992 from the government of Bali. The Arie Smit Pavilion was opened at the Neka Art Museum in 1994 to display his works and those of contemporary Balinese artists.  The Museum Bali in Denpasar and the Penang Museum in Malaysia also have collections of his work.  Smit further had exhibits in Jakarta, Singapore, Honolulu and Tokyo.


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