Emiria Soenassa, the Lost Pearl

December 20, 2010

emiria-paintingRECENTLY we know there are tens of Indonesian  painter women. Some of them have a good reputation in national and international forum.  They are just for instance Kartika Affandi,  the daughter of Indonesian great artist Affandi, Astari Rasyid, Lucia Hartini, Titarubi, Erica Hestu Wahyuni, and Bunga Jeruk.  Their name and works are so easy founded in galleries and art books. But how about Emiria Soenassa? Who is she?

I am not sure that people in Indonesia even art collectors know her name very well. It is so really an irony.

Born as a daughter of  an aristocrat in Tidore, North Sulawesi, 1895, Emiria has taken brave decision to be an artist. She was noted as the first Indonesian woman that choose an artist as her profession. As a woman from aristocratic world in early 20th century her decision to be an artist was not easy. Her father didn’t give her permit to achieve too high grade education. She was really unhappy while she dreamed want to go around the world. However, her dream became reality when she was married by a diplomatic person which  brought her to Europe.

In Belgium she learned ballet dance and playing with her group in Amsterdam, Holland, and Vienna, Austria. It was not noted when and where she learned painting. But in 1930s she was the only female member of Persagi (Indonesian Painter/Draftsmen Association) and involved in some interesting exhibitions. Founder of Persagi and the father of Indonesian painting art, S Sudjojono, was impressed with her paintings mentioned Emiria as a genius artist.

However Emiria Soenassa was not so famous as her male colleagues such as Sudjojono, Affandi, Basoeki Abdullah, or Rusli. Sure, the world of painting art was dominated by male artists at the time and even recently.

Living in colonial era and early period of Republic of Indonesia Emiria showed her spirit of nationalism. Art critic Carla Bianpoen said that Emiria was the first and only artists who, in the quest for a new nation, had the imagination to depict a modern Indonesia in its multifaceted diversity.

Her works drew the people from various islands in Indonesia, such as Dayak hunter and brides, women form North and South Sulawesi, Moluccas and Papua. She also painted small and ordinary people in the market places or farming.

The works of Emiria has been presented in Bentara Budaya Jakarta on December 9-18, 2010. Looking at her works we feel find the lost pearls. Yes, Emiria Soenassa is really the lost pearl in the visual art history  of Indonesia. Emiria died in Lampung, Sumatra, 1964.


Book of Indonesian Art:

Indonesian modern art and beyond

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