Village life in Sanur, undated - oil on canvas
Willem Hofker was born May 3, 1902. His father was an art-minded amateur writer and
Willem soon developed himself as a talented artist. He went to the Art Academy in The
Hague, won 2nd prize at the Prix de Rome in 1924 and settled in Amsterdam with his wife
Maria who was also a painter.
They manage to make a living as painters, even during the crisis in the 30's and Willem
is a much-wanted painter of portraits for the Dutch high-society.
In 1938 he is asked to make a portrait of Queen Wilhelmina by the KPM sealines and is sent
to Batavia to officially hand over the painting himself.
Willem and Maria travel around making sketches and paintings. But much to Willem's
disappointment, the locals are muslem and not eager to pose for his paintings.
They then move on to Bali where they feel at home and decide to stay and work there.
They meet Margaret Mead and Jane Belo and keep in contact with other western painters like
Spies, Strasser, Meyer and their good friend Rudolf Bonnet. In 1940 the couple moves to
Life in paradise comes to an end with WW2. Hofker and Bonnet are forced to join the
KNIL-army in Surabaya and both Willem and Maria are sent to separate prison camps in
Celebes (Sulawesi) after the invasion of the Japanese troups in 1942. Most of Maria's
paintings and sketches were destroyed in the camp.
After the war, the Indonesian nationalists seized the opportunity to declare
independence. Willem was drafted again to fight against the Indonesian nationalists.
Although Willem and Maria were eager to return to Bali, they didn't want to take up the
arms again, especially not against their friends and left back to Holland.
For years, Willem Hofker made many more paintings and pastels about Bali, but never
returned to the island.