Prior to 1920s, Balinese traditional paintings were restricted to two styles Kamasan and Wayang, originated from Hindu-Javanese epics. Paintings were drawn on cloth or bark paper with natural dyes in red, ochre, black, etc. The rendering of the figures and ornamentations must follow strictly prescribed rules, since they were mostly produced for religious articles and temple hangings.
In the 1920s, with the arrival of many western artists, Bali became an artist enclave for avant-garde artists like Walter Spies (German), Rudolf Bonnet (Dutch), Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur (Belgian), Arie Smit (Dutch) and Donald Friend (Australian). These artists played influential roles in changing the art forms in Bali, mainly in Ubud. Inspired by the works by Spies and Bonnet, who were credited for the modernization of traditional Balinese paintings, the Balinese paintings started to infuse with European painting concepts, which was completely new to the island. In addition, with Spies and Bonnets effort to stag a series of exhibitions and heavily promoted local art to collectors throughout the world, they made it it possible for some Balinese artists to earn an adequate living from their work.
In the 1930s, one of the noted artists from Mexico, Miguel Covarrubias, found a major liberating revolution in Balinese art where local artists began to produce scenes from rural life like work in the rice fields, shopping in the marketplace, and bathing. The local painters developed increasing individuality, which was referred to as the Ubud style. This groundbreaking period of creativity reached a peak in the late 1930s. The result was an explosion of individual expression that leads to the birth of the neo-traditional Balinese painting. The schools of neo-traditional Balinese painting include: Ubud, Batuan, Sanur, Young Artist and Keliki schools of painting.