Koempoel, the Almost Forgotten Legend

Koempoel Sujatno (1912-1987)
He was born in 1912 at Paron Village, Ngawi, East Java, Indonesia. His father was an officer of the railroads service company of Dutch Indische government during colonialism era. He still inherited royal blood from his ancestor, RA. Prawirodidjo, who was also known as the Prince Sentot Ali Basah Prawirodirjo. Such condition enabled him to enroll study at technical school (HIS) at Surabaya, the capital city of East Java, which was later proven to be beneficial for his painting technique development.

Koempoel’s talent attracted Van Staal, the School Headmaster’s attention. He recommended Koempoel to the naturalist maestro Gerard Pieter Adolfs, one of the proponents of Mooi Indie (beautiful Indie) style. During 1928-1932 Adolfs taught Koempoel some realistic representation techniques that would become a key of his success in the future. Since then, Koempoel continued exploring Surabaya downtown crowds and sceneries for his painting objects.

When Koempoel followed his parent to move to Malang, a comfortable city situated at uplands, one day he met the realistic painter Willem van der Does who keenly saw his special talent and offered him to become his teacher. Koempoel learned painting further to Van der Does for over 7 years. In 1935, an obstetrician named dr. Soerodjo was so amazed with Koempoel’s works so that he decided to sponsor Koempoel’s 1st exhibition in Malang.

After independence proclaimed in 1945, the Dutch government launched a military operation during 1945-1947 motivating Koempoel to also participate in defense struggle. He actively participated in producing and distributing the heroic pamphlets and posters throughout Surabaya and Malang to flame up people’s struggling spirit.

During 1950-1970, Koempoel was on the peak performance and recognized as one of the most productive painters in Indonesia, although fine art community in that era somewhat a bit ignored his works. Some criticized that he was too commercial and his works could’ve fallen to be “mechanical” as he could replicate one object of painting few times just to meet his buyers’ request. But he didn’t care and never stopped producing his artworks to satisfy a lot of collectors and art lovers. He kept working until passed away on 18th of August 1987, aged 75 due to throat cancer he suffered. He left his wife behind without any children; only 1 painting found remaining in his house when he died.

Approximately 2500 Koempoel artworks have however been spread widely around the globe; from Surabaya, Singapore to Amsterdam, from art laymen to major collectors, from modest house to the President’s Palace of Indonesia, and being traded in retail up to luxurious galleries and major auctioneers such as Christie and Sotheby’s.

Just early in 2004, to commemorate and respect the late Koempoel’s devotion to art, G&G Foundation launched 348 pages book titled “The Maestro Koempoel Sujatno: Tracing the Old Historical City of Soerabaia”. This glossy luxurious hard-covered book summarized around 100 pieces of Koempoel’s works. The book production was prepared in 3 years long and distributed internationally. An art expert, Dr. Jean Couteau from French commented in this book that the series of old Surabaya life as captured on Koempoel’s paintings exercised blurred colors and impressionistic style; because it depicted objects not in their natural shapes but more likely posed their nuance and ambience instead. The book launching itself was attended not less than 300 VIPs representing the Koempoel’s artwork lovers.

LOT #3

  • Title : Kalimas Harbor
  • Type : oil on canvass
  • Dimension : 63 X 113 cm
  • Year : -
  • Condition : framed, very good and well preserved, ready to hang
  • Signature : signed on the bottom right corner; “Koempoel”
  • Provenance : private collection