Brought to you by the National Gallery Singapore

Masterpieces from the Gallery



By Raden Saleh (b. circa 1811, Indonesia; d. 1880, Indonesia)

Oil on canvas, 300 x 396cm

Collection of National Gallery Singapore

Adopted by the Yong Hon Kong Foundation

Raden Saleh's Forest Fire is an immense composition showing animals chased by flames to the edge of a precipice.

At the centre of the work, a terrified tiger confronts the viewer, captured right at the moment before he plunges over the cliff.

The foreground of the work is densely packed with the forms of the animals, heightening the drama of the scene.

The artist was born in Semarang, Central Java, and the painting is set in his home-land.

However, the work was created after he had spent 20 years living in Europe and it shows the impact of his artistic training there. He was influenced by the Romantic movement, which created a fashion for images of the violent and destructive power of nature.

The scale and complexity of this composition reflects his ambition as a painter, as he had achieved significant critical success in Europe.

He also attracted patronage from the European elite.

This artwork was presented as a gift to King William III of the Netherlands in 1850, one year before the artist returned to Java.

• This is the last of a six-part series brought to you by the National Gallery Singapore. The Gallery houses the largest public collection of Singapore & South-east Asian art and opens to the public on Nov 24. For more information, go to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Masterpieces from the Gallery'. Print Edition | Subscribe