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  Traditional Painting

FOR centuries Java was the mother country, a fact reflected even today in the subject matter of traditional Balinese painting.

The traditional styles derive for the most part from the 14th and 15th centuries when the Hindu population of East Java migrated to Bali, taking their art forms with them. The first painters were puppet painters, a skill, which evolved over time to include painting figures on cloth according to well-established iconography rules.

Known as wayang-style paintings because the figures resembled shadow-puppet characters, these highly formalized traditional paintings related scenes from Balinese mythology and from the classical Hindu Mahabharata and Ramayana epics.

Popular, everyday scenes from daily Balinese life were never depicted. This was a world of Hindu gods, demons, and princesses dressed in the ancient attire of Hindu Javanese times. Quaint but uninspiring, their purpose was to instill moral and ethical values by relating laws of adat.

Specialists in the traditional arts of religious drawing and painting were commissioned by the rajas to paste gold leaf on pieces of clothing; paint statues and artifacts in bright splashy colors; and decorate wooden cremation towers, palace altars, and pavilions. Noblemen from the courts loaned each other artists, in this way spreading art all over the island.

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