Between Worlds: Raden Saleh and Juan Luna


During European colonialism, Indonesian artist Raden Saleh (1811-1880) and Filipino artist Juan Luna (1857-1899) were two Southeast Asians who had the chance to learn fine arts under the direction of European artists. The works of the two legends have been influential to the development of art in the region and abroad.

In respect of the artists' exceptional life works, National Gallery Singapore is holding “Between Worlds: Raden Saleh and Juan Luna” exhibition. “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,” says Dr. Eugene Tan, director of National Gallery Singapore.

The exhibition gives new insights on their work, lives and influences on modern art. It gathers an array of masterpieces by both artists, loaned by private and public collections around the world that traces their artistic journey from Southeast Asia to Europe and back again.

“Raden Saleh collections are gathered not only from the region and the Europe. To our surprise since we don’t have a prolonged history with the US, The Smithsonian Art Museum has four of them kept in their vault and decided to lend us two paintings entitled Six Horsemen Chasing Deer and Javanese in Temple Ruins for public viewing. One of the paintings is lent from Latvian National Museum of Art,” says curator Syed Muhammad Hafiz.

Other paintings were collected from Rijkmuseum and Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands), among others.

Similarly, the Juan Luna collection also travelled from many countries, dominantly from Spain where Juan Luna won The Spanish National Exhibition in 1884 with his painting Spoliarium. Curator Clarissa Chikiamco has gathered Juan Luna’s works from museums and private collections in Manila, Madrid, and other cities in Spain, before displaying them together with National Gallery Singapore’s own collection.

Uniquely, the curators decided to put each artists’ similar paintings on the same panels while each paintings were brought from different places – three “Wounded Lions” by Raden Saleh and two “Espana y Filipinas” (Spain and the Philippines) by Juan Luna.

Held at National Gallery Singapore’s Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, the exhibition hall is divided in two zones that differentiated by the colours of the wall panel; cobalt blue for Raden Saleh and pink for Juan Luna. The colours nod to the character of each artist’s paintings; Raden Saleh was more masculine with his lions and war scenes, while Juan Luna depicts romantic settings and feminine personalities. Both “worlds” are connected with a gold narrowing tunnel that gives dramatic transition while being photogenic.

Several joint programmes are held by the gallery to give deeper knowledge about both artists’ visions and arts, including guided tours, talks, lectures, dialogues and children activities. After touring the show, visitors can also buy the exhibition’s thematic merchandise at Gallery & Co. at the ground floor of the museum.

The exhibition runs from 16 November 2017 to 11 March 2018.


Between Worlds is a part of Century of Light, which features two exhibitions on 19th century art. Together with "Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay", the show displays painting styles and art movements that emerged in Europe during this era, which has proven to be an influential factor to the development of art in Southeast Asia and around the world.

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Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.