Walter Spies was a Russian-born German primitivist painter, composer, musicologist, and curator. In 1923 he moved to Java, Indonesia. He lived in Yogyakarta and then in Ubud, Bali starting from 1927, when Indonesia was under European colonial rule as the Dutch East Indies.
Spies is often credited with attracting the attention of Western cultural figures to Balinese culture and art in the 1930s, as he became internationally known and hosted numerous anthropologists, actors, artists and other cultural figures. Spies influenced the direction of Balinese art and drama.
After the outbreak of war in Europe, Spies was arrested as a German national and interned by the Dutch authorities as an enemy alien. In 1942 he was among 477 German internees who were deported by the Dutch to Ceylon, but their ship was bombed by Japanese planes. Spies and most of the other prisoners died at sea.