The National Gallery Singapore will shed light on two South-East Asian painters as part of an exhibition on 19th-century masterpieces.

Indonesian painter Raden Saleh (1811-1880) and Filipino artist Juan Luna (1857-1899), considered national heroes in their home countries, went toe to toe with their Western counterparts during their travels to Europe.

More than 80 of Saleh and Luna’s works will appear together for the first time in Between Worlds, part of the Century Of Light exhibition.

Another section, called Colours Of Impressionism, traces the emergence of modernism in Europe through major Impressionist works by the likes of Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir from the collection of one of Europe’s leading art museums, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

Saleh was the first Indonesian artist to receive training in Europe and was conferred the title of King’s Painter by King Willem III of the Netherlands.

Key works by Saleh on display include his largest painting Forest Fire (1849), a 3m by 4m scene of frenzied animals fleeing flames and falling off a cliff, as well as Wounded Lion (1838), inspired by the animal shows he attended in The Hague and Haarlem in the Netherlands.

Luna, who studied in Madrid and Rome, won the First Class Medal in Spain’s annual art exhibition in 1884 with his painting Spoliarium.

national gallery singapore

Filipino artist Juan Luna’s The Unknown Ones (oil on canvas, 1890-91).

He is known for his illustrations of the power dynamic between the Philippines and its coloniser Spain.

The exhibition will include two versions of Spain And The Philippines, an idealised allegory that depicts the two countries as women moving together up a flight of stairs.

Also on display is his late 19th-century realist masterpiece The Unknown Ones, which features the funeral of a poor, unknown person.

Russell Storer, who is deputy director of the gallery’s curatorial and collections department, said: “Raden Saleh and Juan Luna have works in the collections of some of the world’s leading museums. In bringing this extraordinary group of works together, we have worked closely with these museums as well as private collectors, libraries and archives.

“With their support, we have been able to shape a rich and expansive exhibition that will enable people to learn about the remarkable lives and careers of Raden Saleh and Juan Luna, and to appreciate the impact they made in the art worlds in Europe and South-East Asia.” – The Straits Times/ANN

Century Of Light will run till March 11 next year. It will be held at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, National Gallery Singapore. More info: