Snapshots with Stories

28 – Paintings by Ernest Dezentjé in our family

Ernest Dezentjé (1884-1971) was an Indo painter, whose works are still popular among the wealthy elite of South-East Asia. His paintings, of the ‘Mooi-Indië’ (Beautiful Dutch-Indies) genre, include landscapes, townscapes and market scenes. His is an impressionist style which prevailed in the Netherlands-Indies during that period. (H. Spanjaard, 2003).

Our family owns a few of his oil paintings, collected by my father, William Fung (1902-1970). My father’s Chinese name is Fung Yao Kai. An adventurous man, he arrived in the Netherlands at the beginning of the previous century, taking up various occupations, ranging from clerical work to peanut bar vendor (‘pinda-chinees’!) and restaurant owner. After the second World War he returned to the Netherlands-Indies where he met my mother, Tan Bor Lan, and married her. In those days my parents frequently saw my father’s sister, Fung Yueh Lan, her husband, Kwee Hap Gwan, and their four sons.

In the black and white picture Yao Kai is seated on the right and Hap Gwan on the left side.

As a photographer, Hap Gwan had an eye for art. On his recommendation Yao Kai began to collect paintings by Dezentjé, as an investment at first, gradually growing into a genuine interest.

Our fathers passed on the love for Dezentjé’s paintings to my cousins, Kai Bo and Kai Sien, and me. When the Chinese went through harsh times in 1966, my parents decided to return to the Netherlands with my brother Suen Ming and me. Our departure was prepared in secrecy; very few people knew of my parents’ plans. Hap Gwan helped my parents organize our departure, as well as packing some of the paintings. Unfortunately we had to leave my favorite waterfall painting behind.

Suen Ming and I are proud to possess some of Dezentjé’s oil paintings. In 2014, both our families went to Indonesia for a family reunion. It was very special that this reunion was held in the building of the former ‘Bataviasche Kunstkring’, where exhibitions of Dezentjé’s works used to be held. Both my cousins Kai Bo and Kai Sing also attended this event. And so the story has come to a full circle !

Suen Ying Fung, June 2015


Spanjaard, H., Moderne Indonesische schilderkunst, Uitgeverij Uniepers Abcoude, 2003.