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Born in 1967, Anurak Namaphai followed an unusual path for a painter. He received no academic training nor any drawing or painting course. Coming from a modest background of farmers in Isaan, the most disenfranchised region of Thailand, he settled in Bangkok after high school in order to make a living and make some money for his family. He first worked as a construction worker, factory worker, then in a hotel. By listening to an artist speaking about his work, he then wanted to make drawing and painting his career. Discovered by an art dealer, he perfected his technique with other artists in the group he belonged to from the beginning, and he is now entirely devoted to painting.
Anurak Namaphai’s inspiration
Known and appreciated since Ancient times, genre scenes gradually reappeared throughout the Medieval Period. They primarily deal with romantic or hunting scenes illuminated or painted on tapestries and wall hangings. Thick with religious meaning, these scenes of peasant families were very much appreciated in Flanders. In France, the Le Nain brothers (active in the 17th century) helped bring genre scenes greater importance, yet they still remained low in the hierarchy behind religious and historical painting, considered as more noble subjects in the hierarchy of genres.
With the tremendous social changes of the 19th century and the disagreement among different schools of painters (realists and impressionists), for the first time, genre art found itself at the forefront as a symbol of this dispute. Just like writers, artists from various backgrounds other than nobility were then interested in subjects that were closer to the people, more anchored in their time period and in reality. For genre art is also an open window onto another everyday life.
Genre art was almost unheard of in Thailand; painting essentially covered religious, princely or literary subject matter.
Anurak Numaphai was very much influenced by the French school of Barbizon, to which Théodore Rouseau, Jean-Baptiste Corot belonged, as well as Jean-François Millet, from whom he borrowed his composition style of peasant life.
As someone coming from a background of farmers, when he discovered Jean-François Millet’s work, Anurak Namaphai got the idea to represent the world of peasants as he knew it himself. He draws inspiration from the scenes of everyday life that he observed in Isaan, treating them with a palette of ochre yellow and gold.