Bali: The Forge Collection

Many objects enter museum collections because they are no longer used, having been replaced by new versions. This is the case with the traditional Balinese temple paintings in the Australian Museum's collection.

Bharatayuddha: Death of Abimanyu

Bharatayuddha: Death of Abimanyu
Photographer:  © Australian Museum

The paintings form a large collection made by the late Professor Anthony Forge of the Australian National University, who carried out anthropological research in the village of Kamasan on the island of Bali, Indonesia in 1972-73.

Balinese religion is founded in a form of Hinduism introduced from India more than 500 years ago. This gave rise to a distinctive style of cloth painting formerly practiced in the royal courts of Bali and still practiced today in temples and domestic shrines. The stories illustrated in these paintings are often taken from the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, presented with a unique Balinese interpretation.

As the paintings become damaged from ceremonial use, the temples commission new paintings. The artists, who come from a limited number of families and villages, sometimes keep the old paintings for inspiration or sell them to collectors. Forge began to acquire such paintings and, with the help of the Kamasan artists, identified past artists and documented stylistic and iconic change over time.

Acquired by the Australian Museum in 1976, the Forge collection is one of the most representative and best-documented collections of its kind in the world.

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