Published on 14 November 2017

Raden Saleh. Six Horsemen Chasing Deer. 1860. Gift of Mrs Sally Burbank Swart. Collection of Smithsonian American Art Museum

In “Between Worlds: Raden Saleh & Juan Luna”, visitors will get acquainted with two Southeast Asian artists who achieved acclaim in 19th century Europe and laid the foundation for modern art in this region.

By Melanie Lee

Once upon a time in the 19th century, two young artists – one from Indonesia and one from the Philippines – were sent by their respective colonial rulers to Europe to train under great painters of their time. As a result, they became recognised in the foremost art capitals in Europe, while also becoming national heroes back in their homelands.

These two artists – Indonesian Raden Saleh and Filipino Juan Luna – are the subject of this special exhibition by the National Gallery Singapore: “Between Worlds: Raden Saleh & Juan Luna” from 16 Nov 2017 – 11 Mar 2018. “Between Worlds” features over 80 paintings, drawings and archival materials which took four years to put together by curators Russell Storer, Clarissa Chikiamco and Syed Muhammad Hafiz. It unites, for the first time, masterpieces loaned from private and public collections from all over the world.

While their careers unfolded at different points in the 19th century, there are parallels in their careers, particularly their struggle to reconcile their love for their homelands with their ambitions in Europe.

Said Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, “Raden Saleh and Juan Luna are two of the earliest and most significant artists who propelled the prestige of Southeast Asian art around the world in the 19th century…this exhibition will enable their works to become more accessible to our audiences while furthering our understanding of the art histories of Southeast Asia in the 19th century.”

Juan Luna. Les Ignorés (The Unknown Ones), also known as Héróes anónimos (Anonymous heroes). 1890 – 1891. Collection of Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer, Vilanova I la Geltrú, Spain
Raden Saleh. Wounded Lion. C. 1838. Collection of National Gallery Singapore
Credit: National Gallery Singapore
Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Raden Saleh (1811 – 1880)

Saleh is well-known for his evocative paintings of lions. He was inspired to paint them after attending animal shows by French animal tamer Henri Martin in The Hague and Haarlem. In his later works, he also depicted breathtaking Javanese landscapes.

Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Juan Luna (1857 – 1899)

Luna was deeply patriotic and wanted to show how Filipino artists could be just as good as European artists. The art world first noticed him when his piece Cleopatra won a second-place silver medal at the 1881 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts.

Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Between Worlds: Raden Saleh & Juan Luna” will be on at the National Gallery Singapore Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery C from 16 Nov 2017 – 11 Mar 2018. This exhibition is part of “Century of Light”, a special presentation of two exhibitions focusing on 19th century art. The other exhibition is “Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.” Click here for more information.

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