• Neksa Musuem Ubud

    To learn more and to fully appreciate the development of the Balinese art, head to this
    beautiful museum. Paintings and other work of famous artists are displayed here.

  • Kecak Dance

    The Kecak is one of the most visited dance performance in Bali. While men chant, dancers
    depict the story of Ramayana. Most popular places to witness it is in Ubud or Uluwatu.

  • Balinese Paintings

    The Balinese are artists and are able to create magnificent things. You will soon notice
    that there are numerous types of paintings for sale for any kind of taste...

  • Stone Carvings

    Art is literally everywhere in Bali. Besides temples, museums and in art galleries
    or shops you will see them at entrances and gardens in and around your accommodation

10 Need to Know facts about Walter Spies

The Balinese painters whom he helped and inspired treated his work with the kind of awe which they reserved for the miraculous...” Margaret Mead

Before Walter Spies settled in Bali

1. Born in Moscow, Russia in 1895, where his father was the honorary consul for Germany and a citizen of the Russian empire. Here he studied music, painting, zoology, dancing and botany.

walter spies potret2. Was imprisoned and send to the cultural melting pot of Sterlitamak city near the Ural Mountains when the Russian Revolution took place. Here he escaped and it took him 12 months to find his way back to his family in Dresden in 1919.

3. He went to Berlin to work with the film director Friedrich Murnau (the great master of silent movies) and together with him traveled around Europe where they worked on different films in 1922.

4. He was greatly influenced by painters such as Klee, Rousseau and Chagall and he had a big solo exhibition in Amsterdam and The Hague where he sold various paintings. Proceeds of the paintings were send to Dutch East Indies and in 1923 he worked as a seaman on one of the ships bound for Java island. Here he worked briefly as a pianist for the Chinese cinema in Bandung before he became the Director for the Sultan's Western Orchestra in Yogjakarta in 1924. He was the first European and musician to live in the Sultan's palace and he stayed here for 12 months and in the meanwhile took 2 days of holiday on Bali island. During his 12 months period he painted 'Shrimp Fisherman at Lake Klakah' 1924.


Influences of Walter Spies in Bali

5. He was invited to Bali by the King of Ubud who met him at the Sultan's palace in Yogjakarta. Lured by the mystique of Balinese culture he moved there in 1927 where the royal family gave him a piece of land where the two rivers meet at Campuhan. He stayed for another 13 years. Works of his include 'The seated man' in 1929, a small drawing of the carver Ida Bagus Ketut Gelodog in 1929, and the magnificent 'Farmer Ploughing' his rice field in 1931.


paintings made by walter spies bali


6. Set up of Pita Maha together with the royal King Cokordo of Ubud and the Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet where they stimulated local Balinese artists to use Western painting techniques and they succeeded in exporting Balinese art. He worked as the curator of Bali's first museum in Denpasar. Weekly meetings took place at his house on the Campuhan ridge in Ubud where also expatriates such as the author/artist Covvarubias and scholars came together. Together with the Balinese he created the famous 'kecak' dance.

7. Left Campuhan for the much quieter Iseh on the slopes of Gunung Agung to stay in what he called 'a mountain hut' for a year and painted the famous 'Iseh im Morgenlicht' in 1938. Settled again in Ubud when he came back. This mountain hut became Theo Meier's residence and is now a mountain retreat where celebrities such as Jean Paul Getty Jr, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Ethnologist Urs Ramseyer and more have stayed.

8. He was arrested by the Dutch for being homosexual in 1938 and was placed under house arrest until August 1939. During his imprisonment he made another masterpiece called 'The landscape and her children' (62 x91 cm) which sold at Christies for $1,143,383 in 2002.


later painting by walter spies bali


9. In May 1942 he was re-arrested by the Dutch colonial power when World War II broke out and the Germans invaded Holland. Was placed on a prisoner boat, the Van Imhoff, bound for India together with other Germans businessmen and seafarers who worked in the Dutch East Indies. The next morning on the 17th January 1942 the boat got hit by a Japanese plane bomb and the Captain Hoeksema and his staff evacuated. The sergeant of the guard released all prisoners but the Captain refused to let them tag along in rescue boats. Walter Spies drowned on the Van Imhoff when he was just 47 years old.

Geff Green has listed Walter Spies' paintings in chronological order.


Walter Spies Today

10. His biggest legacy is portraying Bali as the island paradise through his paintings, music and films such as 'The island of demons' together with Baron Victor von Plessen. There's just one of his paintings to be found on Bali today called 'Calonarang' 1930 and is part of Agung Rai's private collection at the Agung Rai Museum in Pengosekan, just south of Ubud. But many works of his 'students' can still be admired at the Neka Museum and at the Puri Lukisan Museum in Ubud.


Home > Handicrafts > Walter Spies

Arma Museum

This museum has a display of various Balinese art, of which the only painting of Walter Spies found in Bali. Learn more on this influential artist at this museum in Ubud.

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Neka Museum

Discover the various types of Balinese art at the Neka Museum. Artifacts and work of famous and influential foreign and local artists from Bali are displayed here.

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Kecak Performance

One of the performances in which Walter Spies had a great influence on was the Kecak dance. Even today this trance dance attracts travelers every day.

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Balinese Paintings

Throughout time various styles have emerged in Bali. From traditional, very colorful to paintings created for travelers as souvenirs. Which style do you prefer?

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