Walter Spies (15 September 1895 – 19 January 1942) was a Russian-born German primitivist painter. In 1923 he came to Java, living first in Yogyakarta and then in Ubud, Bali starting in 1927. He is often credited with attracting the attention of Western cultural figures to Balinese culture and art in the 1930s and he influenced the direction of Balinese art and drama.
In 1937, Spies built what he described as a "mountain hut" at Iseh in Karangasem. Adored by the Balinese, Spies was the co-founder of the Pita Maha artists cooperative, through which he shaped the development of modern Balinese art and established the Westerner's image of Bali that still exists today.
After living for nine years at the confluence of two rivers in Campuan(Ubud), Spies grew weary of his increasingly hectic social life, and retired to the tranquil mountain retreat that was to become the setting of some of his most beautiful and atmospheric paintings, including "Iseh im Morgenlicht 1938" Despite his desire to escape from a constant stream of visitors, Spies still used to receive guests at Iseh, including the musician Colin McPhee and his wife, anthropologist Jane Belo, the Swiss artist Theo Meier and the Austrian novelist Vicki Baum. Vicki Baum accredits Walter Spies with providing her the factual historical information and details on Balinese culture for her historical fiction novel "Love and Death in Bali" - dealing with the Dutch intervention in Bali (1906), and first published in German in 1937.
As a German national in the Dutch East Indies during World War II, Spies was arrested and deported. However, a Japanese bomb hit the ship that was carrying him to Ceylon, and because the crew were reluctant to evacuate the Germans without a corresponding order, most of the prisoners on the ship, including Spies, drowned.
- Elke Voss: "Walter Spies – Ein Leben für die balinesische Kunst". In: Ingrid Wessel (Hg.) Indonesien am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Hamburg: Abera Verlag. ISBN 3-934376-07-X
- Nigel Barley: (2009) "Island of Demons". Singapore: Monsoon books. ISBN 978-981-08-2381-8
- Vicki Baum: "Love and Death in Bali". Translated by Basil Creighton 1937. Tuttle Publishing ISBN 978-0-8048-4180-1
- John Stowell : "Walter Spies, a life in art". Afterhours Books, 2011, ISBN 978-602-96588-0-4
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Walter Spies.|
- Walter Spies Paintings and his House in Bali
- Biography from Network Indonesia
- Gallery of his works
- Walter Spies on Facebook