Painting : Understanding – History – Type, Complete with Explanation


Painting is very related to drawing. Prehistoric relics show that since thousands of years ago, human ancestors have begun drawing on the walls of caves to image important parts of their lives.

All cultures in the world know the art of painting. This is because paintings or drawings are very easy to create. A painting or drawing can be created using only simple materials such as charcoal, lime, or other materials. One of the famous techniques of prehistoric drawings performed by cave people is to stick their hands on the walls of the cave, then spout them with chewing leaves or colored mineral stones.

The result is a colorful hand-clad on the walls of the cave that can still be seen today. This ease allows drawings (and subsequent paintings) to develop faster than other branches of fine art such as sculpture and ceramic art.

Like drawings, paintings are mostly made on flat fields such as walls, floors, paper, or canvas. In modern art education in Indonesia, this trait is also called dwi-matra (two-dimensional, flat dimension). Along with the development of civilization, human ancestors are increasingly adept at making shapes and composing them in pictures, so automatically their works begin to form a kind of composition and narrative (story / story) in his works.

Objects that often appear in ancient works are humans, animals, and other natural objects such as trees, hills, mountains, rivers, and the sea. The shape of the drawn object is not always similar to the original. This is called imagery and it is strongly influenced by the painter’s understanding of the object.

For example, the image of a bull is made with unusually large proportions of horns compared to the size of the original horn. This imagery is influenced by the painter’s understanding that horns are the most impressive part of a bull. Therefore, the image of one kind of object becomes different depending on the cultural understanding of the people in the area. This imagery becomes very important because it is also influenced by imagination. In the development of painting, imagination plays an important role until now.

In the beginning, the development of painting was strongly related to the development of human civilization. Language systems, ways of survival (scavenging, hunting and trapping, farming), and belief (as the forerunner of religion) are things that influence the development of painting. This influence is seen in the type of object, the imagery and the narrative in it. In these times, painting has a special purpose, for example as a recording medium (in fine form) to be repeated.

Leisure moments in prehistoric times are filled with drawing and painting. The way of communication using images ultimately stimulates the formation of a writing system because the letters actually come from the symbols of the image which are then simplified and standardized.

At one point, there were certain people in one prehistoric community who spent more time drawing than looking for food. They began to be adept at drawing and began to find that certain shapes and arrangements, when arranged in such a way, would seem more interesting to look at than usual. They begin to find a kind of sense of beauty in their activities and continue to do so so that they become more and more expert. They were the first artists on earth and that’s when drawing and painting began to lean into art activities.

Definition of Painting

Painting is a full development of a drawing. Painting is an activity in processing a two-dimensional medium (2D) or the surface of a three-dimensional object (3D) to get a certain impression. Painting is a branch of fine art.

History of The Development of Painting

History of Painting

Classical painting

Classical painting is mostly intended for purposes: Mysticism (as a result of undeveloped religion) Propaganda (e.g. graffiti on the ruins of pompeii city),

In this day and age painting is intended to imitate as closely as possible the forms that exist in nature. This is due to the development of science and the beginning of the realization that painting is able to communicate better than words in many ways. In addition, human ability to settle perfectly has given awareness of the importance of beauty in the development of civilization.

Medieval painting

As a result of the overly strong influence of religion in medieval times, painting was subjected to the ingestions of science. Science is considered a magic that can keep people away from devotion to God. As a result, painting can no longer be in line with reality.

Most paintings in this day and age are more symbolism, not realism. So it is very difficult to find paintings that can be categorized as “good”.

Paintings of this time were used for propaganda and religious tools. Some religions that prohibit the depiction of animals and humans encourage the development of abstractism (the separation of elements of the “true” form from objects).

But as a result of the separation of science from human culture, the development of art at this time slowed down until the beginning of the renaissance.

Renaissance painting

It started in Florence. After the defeat of Turkey, many scientists and culture experts (including painters) edged from Byzantine to present-day Italian peninsula.

The support of the deMedici family who ruled Florence over modern science and the arts led to the synergy of the two resulting in many contributions to Europe’s new culture.

Fine Art finds its new soul in the rebirth of classical art. Science in the city is no longer considered magic, but as a new tool to reclaim power seized by the Turks.

In the end, the influence of art in the city of Florence spread throughout Europe to Eastern Europe.

People who are widely known from this time are:

  • Tomassi
  • Donatello
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Michaelangelo
  • Raphael


Art Nouveau painting

The Industrial Revolution in England has led to mechanization in many ways. The goods are made with mass production system with high precision. As a result, an artist’s hand skills are no longer so appreciated for being replaced by machine-made subtlety.

As an answer, artists turn to forms that are impossible to achieve by mass production (or if they can, it will cost to make them very expensive). Paintings, works of fine art, and craft are directed towards smooth curves that are mostly inspired by the beauty of plant lines in nature.

History of painting in Indonesia

Modern Indonesian painting began with the entry of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. The tendency of Western European art at that time to romanticism led many Indonesian painters to develop this tradition. Initially Indonesian painters were more as spectators or assistants, because art education is a luxury that is difficult for indigenous people to achieve. In addition to the price of modern painting tools that are difficult to reach ordinary residents.

Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman was one of the assistants lucky enough to learn European-style painting practiced by Dutch painters.

Raden Saleh then continued to study painting to the Netherlands, thus becoming a respected Indonesian painter and becoming a court painter in several European countries.

However, Indonesian painting did not go through the same development as the European renaissance, so its development did not go through the same stages.

The era of revolution in Indonesia made many Indonesian painters switch from the themes of romanticism to tend towards “populism”. Objects related to the natural beauty of Indonesia is considered a theme that betrays the nation, because it is considered licked to the capitalists who became enemies of the popular ideology of communism at that time. The painters then turned to real portraits of the lives of the lower classes and the struggles facing the invaders.

In addition, painting tools such as paint and canvas are increasingly difficult to obtain making Indonesian paintings tend to be simpler forms, thus giving birth to abstraction.

The Cultural Manifesto Movement, which aimed to counter the ideological coercion of communism, made painters in the 1950s prefer to free their artworks from certain political interests, so that the era of expressionism began. Painting is no longer regarded as a conveyer of messages and propaganda tools, but rather as a means of expression of its maker. That belief is still held today.

The journey of our painting since the pioneering of R. Saleh until the beginning of the XXI century, feels still tossed by various clashes of conceptions.
The establishment of Indonesian painting that has not reached the level of success has been torn apart by the idea of modernism that resulted in alternative art or contemporary art, with the emergence of conceptual art: “Installation Art”, and “Performance Art”, which had mushroomed in the corners of art college campuses around 1993-1996. Then came various alternatives such as “collaboration” as a fashion 1996/1997. Along with conventional painting with various styles decorate the galleries, which is no longer a form of appreciation to the community, but is an alternative business investment.

Various Genres of painting

Art Tradition of Painting

Cubism Art Tradition

It is a flow that tends to attempt abstraction of objects into geometric shapes to gain a certain sensation. One of the most famous figures of this genre is Pablo Picasso.

The Art Of Romantic Painting

It is the oldest tradition in the history of modern Indonesian painting. This flowing painting seeks to evoke romantic memories and beauty in each object. Natural scenery is an object that is often taken as the background of a painting.

Romanticism was pioneered by painters during the Dutch colonial era and transmitted to indigenous painters for the purpose of collections and galleries in colonial times. One of the famous figures of this school is Raden Saleh.

The Art Tradition of Naturalism

As the name suggests, it is natural. The flow of naturalism is a tradition that depicts something as real and natural as it appears in the original. The characteristics of naturalism painting include:

  • Painting mimics nature with little change
  • Prioritize the shape and similarity of objects
  • The colors, proportions, and shapes match the original.

A group of naturalist painters in Indonesia began with moi Indie group, among others Locatelli, Rudolf Bonnet, Abdullah Soerjo Soebroto, Basoeki Abdullah, Wakidi, Le Mayeur, and R.M. Pirngadie. In Indonesia, raden saleh, Abdullah Sudrio Subroto, Basuki Abdullah, Gambir Anom, and Trubus.

The Art Tradition of Realism

The second genre of fine art is the school of Realism. The flow of realism is a tradition that has the concept of expressing a reality or something concrete and objective. Where everything is described as what it looks like, nothing less and nothing more.

This tradition emerged as a protest against a flow that exceeded reality. This school often features figures from ordinary people. Not much different from the flow of naturalism, which is equally describing the object according to the circumstances as it is without contrived, but the difference with the realist tradition is that realism artists take objects from their daily lives that are completely real (original) and without illusions.

The meaning can also refer to an attempt in fine art to show a truth, even without hiding even the bad. Realist artists always try to show the daily life of certain characters, atmospheres, dilemmas, and objects. The realism figures are Gustove Corbert, Fransisco de Goya, and Honore Daumier.

The School of Impressionism

It was a school of modern painting for the first time. Impressionism overhauls the traditional painting technique of brushes no longer smoked but matched, thus forming color spots. To achieve the painting effect is used a series of primary colors that are aligned so as to obtain the impression of mixed colors.

The characteristics of impressionism paintings include:

  • Prioritizing impressions produced from an artist’s point of view
  • Colors depicted as brilliant flashes of light
  • The object comes from the natural environment and in daily life.

In Indonesia, kusnadi, solichin, and afandi are adherents.

Stream of Expressionism

The flow of expressionism, which is a feature of painting whose depiction of its shape tends to deviate from its original form. Expressionism is a tradition that prioritizes one’s inner outpouring freely. Free to explore objects arising from the inner world, imagination, and feelings.

Objects in the painting include horror, violence, poverty, sadness and other desires behind human behavior. This painting is the result of an expression of the painter’s feelings made spontaneously. Expressionism is based on subjective feelings. The emotional power of the painter is expressed by distortion of lines, shapes, and colors.

The flow of expressionism appeared in Germany in the XX century. The father of expressionism was Van Gogh. The most famous figures in Indonesia are Affandi, as well as other expressionist painters such as Rusli, and Srihadi Sudarsono also including Zaini and Popo Iskandar.

Abstract Flow

Abstract flow, which is a feature of the painting resulting from the inner expression of the painter with the form of depiction of objects that are no longer recognized (only the painter knows). Abstract itself is one type of contemporary art that does not depict objects in the original world, its artists use only colors and shapes in a non-representational way. Elements that are considered capable of providing a sensation of the existence of objects are reinforced to replace elements of the form that are reduced in portion. The result is the composition of lines, fields, colors, and other elements.

Abstract figures in Indonesia are: Nashar, Fajar Sidik, Ahmad Sadali, Amri Yahya, Handrio, Hans Hartung, Zaini, and A. D. Pirous.


This tradition says the beauty of motion and is seen as a break-in of the Cubism flow which is considered static in composition, line and coloring. The year of the painting’s birth was in 1909.

The characters are Umberto, Boccioni, Carlo Cara, Severini, Gioccomo Ballad an Ruigi Russalo.


The flow of pointilism, which is a feature of paintings formed from a collection of color dots, and when viewed from a certain distance forms a realistic, expressive, and artistic painting. The painters of this school were Rijaman and Keo Budi Harijanto.

Pop Art Art Genre

The pop art genre first flourished in America in 1956, its original name being Popular Images. This art arises out of saturation with objectless art and reminds us of the surroundings we have long forgotten. In taking objects not picky, what they encounter is made into objects. It could even be that they took a pair of sandals rested on the table wreckage then arranged in such a way and finally exhibited.

The general impression of Pop art works displays an atmosphere of satire, caricature, humor and what it is. In Indonesia, these are self-proclaimed artists: The New Art People of Indonesia.

Optical Art Flow

Optical Art art genre is also called Retinal Art is a pattern of painting art whose depiction is a geometric arrangement with neat repetitions, can be like a chessboard. This work attracts attention because of its brilliant color and seems to fool the eyes with the illusion of space.

One of them is AT Sitompul.

Trick Art Flow

Trick Art is a two-dimensional painting using visual illusions so that it looks like real (three-dimensional). This type of painting was first created in 1984 by a Japanese artist. Kazumane kenju with mural painting. The painting was finally enjoyed by the public and in 1991 at the Trick Art Museum which was established for the first time in the world.

Trick Art exhibition itself in Indonesia was held in Grand Indonesia, West Mall 5th floor, which took place from December 2, 2012 to February 3, 2013 recently.


Surrealism is a tradition of painting that depicts something from the realm of dreams or imaginary realms (imagination). Where wishful thinking and imaginary nature greatly influence the shape of this flow painting. Pioneers of Surrealism were Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and Andre Masson. In Indonesia are Sudibio, Sudiardjo, and Amang Rahman.

This flow tends to depict things that are imaginary, intuitive or like the nature of a dream, so that the shape created seems strange. The characteristics of surrealism paintings include;

  • There are many elements of fantasy such as dream nature
  • Many reveal strange and out-of-consciousness things
  • It has to do with psychiatric matters.

Classic Flow

The term classic word contains the sense of the nature of a thing, circumstance or event in the past that experienced the peak of glory, excellence, greatness, or notoriety but until now those qualities are still perceived or recognized. Such a trait is due to things, circumstances, or events that have a high value or quality and recognized, becoming a measure of eternal perfection.

It flourished in the early 19th century, and usually refers to Greek and Roman cultures. The characteristics of classical painting include:

  • made redundant
  • beautiful and molek, and
  • static and clean

Decorative Flow

Decorative flow is the art of painting with objects of various forms of nature (humans, stars, plants, etc.) that are over-composed. This flow is characterized by the beauty of decorative shapes in paintings. This tradition is widely developed in Bali.


Calligraphy is a picture object with its arrangement of letters or words combined to form a particular image or pattern. In Indonesia calligraphy was first discovered in Gresik, East Java, namely in the tomb of Fatimah binti Maimun who died in 495 H / 1028 AD and developed rapidly in the 1980s.

Major calligraphy exhibitions, such as MTQ, Islamic Face Exhibition, and Istiqlal Exhibition, were markers of the success of Islamic calligraphy art at that time. The artists wear their respective styles as symbolic and abstract. Historically, Indonesian calligraphy could not be separated from the process of acculturation with a number of cultures, such as loka culture, Persian, and Chinese. Therefore, Indonesian calligraphy cannot be said to be the same as calligraphy from other regions, because it already has its own identity.

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