"Cette fois j'allait vivre exclusivement pour mon art et que rien ne pourrait m'en distraire" (This time I shall live exclusively for my art and nothing shall distract me). (Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, 1880-1958 Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprs: Painter-Traveller, Pictures Publishers, The Netherlands, 1995, p. 101).
The French-speaking, Belgian-born artist made this promise before his departure from Europe in 1932 where he was born and raised, educated and worked as an artist for most of his life. By the age of 52 when he made his second visit to Bali, Le Mayeur was very much a seasoned traveller who had left his foot-prints in the lands of North Africa, India and most European countries.
True to the spirit of an impressionist and a painter-traveller, the routine of the artist's life had been punctuated with frequent sojourns in foreign lands. These endeavours elucidate the artist's constant and dedicated pursuit of sunlight and inspiration. Bali was to become a rich stimulant for Le Mayeur, and he devoted himself to the task of depicting his immediate surrounding: the Balinese people, the luxuriant flora, the beach and the sea, all bathed in exuberant sunlight.
This eloquently voluptuous painting is evidently painted in the artist's Balinese period (1932-1958). Generally defined by the pre-war and post-war periods, Le Mayeur's time in Bali coincided with the Japanese occupation of the island 1942-1945 which greatly interrupted the artist's painting activity as painting materials became very difficult to come by in those years.
The present work dates from the early pre-war Balinese period when the artist has just arrived on the island and was going through a period of initiation: a time of surprises, searching and discovering the tropical environ till he finally settled on his immediate environ as his constant subject and Pollok, his wife as his eternal muse. The work which depicts a cluster of 6 Balinese women on the lower left corner of the composition with a few other lingering figures against a backdrop of shimmering coastal view displays the characteristics of an early oeuvre of the artist in the Balinese period: sobering colours on the figures that are counterbalanced with a light and airy treatment of the environ and a spontaneous composition that is very different form the meticulously orchestrated works from his later works of his Balinese period.
The female figures in Balinese beauties on the shore at sunset comprises a virtual catalogue of poses from which Le Mayeur would frequently work and rework. The artist is at this point, perhaps less familiar with his subjects and hence explains the hinted sense of edginess and brusqueness to the figures. The real protagonist, however remains to be the evanescent light of the tropics. The garden, the foliage and the female figures though repeatedly depicted would never fail to be the perfect play area for the dancing tropical light and thus creating a fleeting moment of imagery which colours, light and shadow are the only protagonists and an eternal inspiration to an impressionist palette.