Painting : Ship in The Storm (Raden Saleh - 1837)

Title : "Ship in The Storm"

Artist : Raden Saleh

Year : 1837

Oil on canvas.

Dimension : 97 x 74 cm.

Raden Saleh’s painting entitled “Kapal Dilanda Badai” (1837) exemplifies the Romantic painting expression. The Romantic artist is actually trying to express the fluctuations of his soul torn between the desire to appreciate and express the ideal, imaginary world, and the complicated and fragmented real world. In his endeavors to appreciate the world, the artist tends to express the dramatic, emotional, mysterious, and imaginary, although, too often, he tends to base his work on reality.

In “Ship Engulfed by Storm”, one can see how Raden Saleh expresses a dramatic struggle, two ships thrown about violently by the storm in the middle of the sea. The tension is heightened by the thick dark clouds and the imposing waves that have smashed one of the ships. From above, a glimmer of sunlight reflecting on the rolling waves highlights the dramatic scene even more.

Eventhough Raden Saleh remains in the Romantic frame, the themes of his paintings vary, are oten dramatic, and have high elan vital. The works of Raden Saleh are not limited to natural sceneries, but also include life of human and animalkind struggling in tragedy, such as in “Een Boschbrand” (Forest Fire), “Een Overstrooming op Java” (Flooding in Java), “Een Jagt op Java” (Hunting in Java), “Gevangenneming van Diponegoro” (The Capture of Diponegoro). In spite of that, Raden Saleh was not thoroughly cognizant about trying to create Indonesian art, but the forces of life expressed in his themes are highly inspirational to all strata of society, and more so to the learned indigenous circles who were on the vanguard of nationalistic awakening.

In his writing “Bij het 100ste Geboortejaar van Raden Saleh” (100th Anniversary of the Birth of Raden Saleh) in 1913, Noto Soeroto expressed that in the period of national awakening, the Javanese were encouraged to invoke their own abilities. However, there was no bright spot to be found in the cultural arena. The unadulterated Raden Saleh was expected to evoke an awareness among the Javanese about national art.