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THEO MEIER (1908-1982)


View of the Village of Iseh, painted from the house of Theo

Signed and dated 48 Theo Meier lower left

Oil on canvas, 68.5 x 50 cm

In original frame by the artist.



Theo Meier arrived in Bali in 1936 with the intention of going on to Tahiti where he had been before. However Bali turned out to be the paradise he had been searching for in his dreams and he had no desire any more to move elsewhere. Bali at that time was still a very traditional place where society lived according to an acient religious system and in a luscious tropical setting the modern world was ignored. Here he met Walter Spies, a German artist who had been living in Bali since 1927 and who guided Theo to a deeper understanding of Balinese culture. Walter had a small mountain retreat in the village of Iseh where he invited Theo who was fascinated by the rustic village with its magnificent view of Mount Agung. In 1938 he married a young girl from the village, Ni Madé Mulugan, and in June 1939 his first daughter was born.

In 1941 he divorced Ni Madé and in1942 he married his favourite model Madé Pegi. In 1942 the war came to Bali when it was occupied by the Japanese army. Theo’s house on Sanur beach was requestioned by the Japanese and since paintings of the female nude were prohibited almost six years of his work was confiscated and destroyed. The Dutch artist in Bali were arrested and interned in Japanese camps, but Theo being a citizen of neutral Switzerland was free to stay anywhere on the island. To avoid the coastal areas which were completely occupied by Japanese troops, Theo moved to the isolated village of Iseh. In 1945 after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese army capitulated but at the request of the ALLIED forces the Japanese stayed in Bali till the arrival of Dutch forces in march 1946.

Now the Indonesian war of independence thrust the archipelago once more into turbulence and Theo decided to stay put in Iseh, where at least not much was happening. He painted the present view of the village in 1948. In 1947 he had already painted the same view and that painting now is in the collection of the Museum UPH in Karawaci (Theo Meier, A Swiss artist under the tropics, ill. page 91).

Before the war Walter Spies also had painted a beautiful picture of the village “Iseh in morning light”. In 1948 Theo’s second daughter was born. In 1950 for the first time in 15 years Theo went back to Basel to find some money to support his family in Bali. When he returned in 1952 he found Madé Pegi in love with a Balinese dancer and they divorced. In 1957 Sukarno decreed that all foreign residents had to leave Indonesia. On the invitation of his friend Price Sanidh Rangsit Theo moved to Thailand. In 1966 he returned to Bali for the first time and he purchased land in Iseh to build a house.

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