(Belgian, 1880-1958)
Balinese Girls Gathering Flowers
signed 'J. Le Mayeur' (lower left)
oil on canvas
55.5 x 65.2 cm. (21 7/8 x 25 7/8 in.)

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Balinese Girls Gathering Flowers (Lot 1129) is a strikingly memorable work from the mature Balinese oeuvre of the Belgian painter, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpr?s. More than any other Indo-European artist of the modern period, Belgian-born Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpr?s has been pivotal in creating the myth of the Balinese female as artistic muse. His oeuvre, intensely focused on the painting of Balinese dancers and women weavers, especially of his model, muse and wife, the dancer Ni Pollok, serve as some of the most enduring and appealing images of Balinese women and cultural life ever created.
Le Mayeur's fascination and life-long love for Bali was well documented. Having journeyed to and discovering Bali at the age of 52, he was deeply enthralled by the island, its culture and art, that he settled down to paint his remaining days in the island paradise, declaring 'Cette fois j'allait vivre exclusivement pourmon art et que rien ne pourrait m'en distraire.' (This time I shall live exclusively for my art and nothing shall distract me). This was a bold declaration by a painter-traveller who had spent a lengthy period of travelling through far-flung places such as Africa, Tahiti and India. But his artistic output in Bali proved the strength of his conviction.
Balinese Girls Gathering Flowers is one such work exemplary of his artistic vision centered around Bali. The composition is pleasingly tight, throwing into immediate relief the gathering of the four girls in a garden setting. Naturally integrated within what seems to be a clearing in the garden, the four girls are gathering flowers. The girl in the centre of the composition carries a parasol, its circular form echoed in the circular composition that Le Mayeur has chosen to situate his painted figures.
In the painted world of the artist, these Balinese girls come close to being heavenly nymphs, existing in an Arcadian paradise on earth. In gathering flowers, they not only are engaged in one of the fundamental activities of social and cultural life in Bali which is highly centred around rituals that invariably involve the offering of flowers, but there is also the unmistakable suggestion of pleasure in communion with cultivated nature.
Above everyone else, Le Mayeur himself perhaps best embodied this. He created an Arcadian garden within the compound of his beachside villa and painting studio on Sanur beach; in it, he invited and painted Balinese dancers and weavers, paying homage to their simple elegance and beauty. If painting can be equated at some levels to the staging of theatrical productions, the garden must be Le Mayeur's theatre of painterly drama. In this regard, Balinese Girls Gathering Flowers is a climatic episode from such a theatrical production.

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