During the 1950s, Sindoedarsono Sudjojono painted in a realist style, focusing on people and events of everyday life in postwar Indonesia. In the early 1950s Sudjojono coined his famous credo “back to realism,” arguing that art needs to benefit and improve the life of the Indonesian people (rakyat). He extended his artistic ideology into the political realm by joining the Indonesian Communist Party in 1956, and was elected to the Indonesian parliament. In the early 1960s his paintings became more focused on scenes from the Indonesian War of Independence.
Pertemuan di Tjikampek yang Bersedjarah (Historic Meeting in Tjikampek, 1964) portrays three members of the radical youth group Menteng 31 (left to right: Chaerul Saleh; Wikana; Anak Marhaen Hanafi) in early November 1945, less than three months after Indonesia proclaimed independence. The meeting of Angkatan Pemuda Indonesia (Indonesian Youth Generation), an outgrowth of Menteng 31 was held inside a rice mill in a small district in West Java named Cikampek. Allied troops had bombed their headquarters a week earlier and Sudjojono, who also belonged to Menteng 31 and was present at the meeting, recorded the event in a sketch. When Sudjojono turned this sketch into a painting in 1964, he gave it to A. M. Hanafi, who had just been appointed Indonesian ambassador to Cuba. Compared to Sudjojono’s other paintings of this period, Pertemuan di Tjikampek yang Bersedjarah is much more focused on the three historic figures and attests to Sudjojono’s close relationship with their struggle.
Sindoedarsono Sudjojono was a largely self-taught artist, art critic, and writer who shaped the development of Indonesian modernism. During the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia he fought for a genuinely Indonesian art, free from European colonial influences. He laid great emphasis on the development of a personal artistic language and focused on depicting the everyday lives of Indonesian people during the Dutch colonial regime, which began in the eighteenth century. He rejected the predominant colonial style—which he critically termed Mooi Indië (Beautiful Indies)—for its idealized depiction of the Indonesian landscape. In Indonesian Art Now and That of the Future (1939) Sudjojono criticized Indonesian artists for adopting this style. Sudjojono helped to establish several artists associations: PERSAGI (Union of Indonesian Painters) (1937–38), SIM (Young Indonesian Artists) (1946), and People’s Painters (1947). In 1950 he joined the Indonesian Communist Party and adopted a social realist style. In 1951 he traveled to Europe and participated in the third Weltfestspiele der Jugend und Studenten (World Festival of Youth and Students) in East Berlin. His body of work includes paintings, sketches, drawings, public art, reliefs, and ceramics. After 1959 he withdrew from politics and instead focused on painting landscapes; still-lifes, and portraits.