John van der Sterren is a Dutch/New Zealander, born in Sukabumi, West Java in 1938. His earliest years were spent on a tea estate, 60km from Sukabumi, where his father was the ‘Administrateur’, prior to World War II. After World War II, during which his family were interned in concentration camps, his parents decided to immigrate to New Zealand, and eventually became New Zealand citizens.
The family lived in Wellington and John was educated at Rongotai College. At an early age he developed an interest in the arts, first in cartooning, then in sculpture, and after that in music. Finally, having been encouraged by the well-known New Zealand painter, Cedric Savage, he took up oil painting.
Not wanting to make art his profession, John originally joined the advertising industry as a junior account executive and, from 1957, worked for 25 years with one of New Zealand’s leading advertising agencies of the day, J.Ilott Ltd. In 1983, he was offered a position by his company’s international associates, as technical advisor, managing their Indonesian associate company. He was employed in this capacity until 1991 at which time he left the industry and struck out on his own. It was at this time that he met Didier Hamel, Director of The Duta Fine Arts Foundation in Jakarta, who recognized his artistic abilities and challenged him to devote the rest of his life to art. With Didier Hamel’s support he began to build a reputation as a major player in the Indonesian art scene and was soon recognized as one of the leading landscape and potrait painters in Indonesia.
John changed his method of working and began to sketch on site, mainly in charcoal and pen and ink, using the sketches as basic material to inspire him back in his studio. This liberated his style and gave him the freedom to develop his Fauvist leanings. His strong drawing forms the basis of all his work, which he paints in broad, strong colours in the European tradition. A critic once said “his style is easy to like”. This is true and it has made his work a popular choice amongst collectors throughout Indonesia and many other parts of the world, where his paintings are represented in major collections.
Although the main part of his output has been in Indonesia, he has painted in many other countries, including China, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, England, Europe, Morrocco, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2001 Hexart Publishing in Jakarta published the first full volume of his work, entitled “Tropical Journey”. The success of this publication prompted Hexart to publish a second major book in 2008, entitled “Colourful Horizons”. In addition, the company has produced a range of smaller books in black & white, featuring his charcoal and pen-and-ink drawings.
John van der Sterren’s residence and studio are located at ‘Villa Sikepan’, in the middle of the rice fields near Mendut, three kilometers from the famous Borobudur Temple, in Central Java. He also has a second studio in Hua Hin, Thailand.
This web site serves only as a general introduction and the works shown represent only a small portion of John’s extensive endeavours. The paintings shown are drawn from many private collections, both in Indonesia and around the world.