As a teenager, Hendra Gunawan painted props and scenery for a theatre group. He also studied under Wahdi. In 1940 he joined the Five painters Group in Bandung along with Affandi, Barli, Sudarso and Wahdi. During the Japanese Occuption, he taught painting at the Keimin Bunka Shidoso Cultural Centre in Jakarta. The revolution found Hendra in Yogyakarta where he fought in the Indonesian army. He established Pelukia Rakyat / People’s Painters in 1947, and taught painting and sculpture in ASRI / Indinesian academy of Fine Arts, Yogyakarta from 1950-57. Hendera became a member of the central committee of the communist-spnsored art organization LEKRA / People’s Cultural Institute. Backed by the Indonesian Communist Party, he was elected as a non-party member to the Cunstituent Assembly in 1955. Hendra was imprisoned in the communist purge that followed the failed coup in October 1965. He continued to paint while in prison, producing some of his best works. After his release in 1978, he established a studio in Bali.