(Swiss, 1908-1982)
Rejang Dance
oil on canvas in a painted handcut wooden frame
100 x 113.5 cm. (39 3/8 x 44 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1948
Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner in Indonesia circa 1948.
Klaus Wenk, Theo Meier Bilder aus den Tropen: Pictures from the Tropics, Verlad Stocker-Schmid AG Deitkon - Zürich, 1980 (illustrated, pp. 58-59).
Dider Hamel, Theo Meier: A Swiss Artist Under the Tropics, Hexart, Jakarta, 2007 (illustrated, plate 164, p. 98).

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Enthralled by the beauty and brilliance of Bali, and inspired by the works of Paul Gauguin, a significant period of Theo Meier's oeuvre was spent in the tropical island of Bali. Meier's adaptation of Gauguin's stylistic language of primitivism, which is typified by geometric designs and distinct contrasts in colours, is clearly seen in his depiction of the Rejang Dance (Lot 33).
Rejang, meaning "offering", is a dance that is performed annually in the courtyard of the temple to entertain the gods and spirits and is a longstanding tradition in Bali. It is one of the more dignified Balinese dances, with the dancers conducting themselves in a flawless, dream-like fashion. The dance is accompanied by the melodious sounds of the gamelan, a traditional Javanese percussion instrument, which reverberates gently amidst the gracious movements of the dancers. Theo Meier, primarily a portrait and scene-painter, was fascinated by the Rejang dance as he felt that it was "one of the most beautiful things that existed in the neighbourhood of Selat", where he lived in Indonesia.
Theo Meier painted the Rejang dance ceremony several times, enabling him to capture the real magnificence and splendour of the dance, to the extent of exuding its meditative nature through the fluidity of his brush strokes and blend of colours. The grace and delicacy of the dancers amidst the detailed ornaments and statuettes clearly depicts the beauty of the dance that Meier appreciated. The orange, yellow and red hues, a constant in Meier's works, bring out the warmth and atmosphere of the scene - making it a clear depiction of the Balinese tropics. Meier's ability to bring forth the exquisiteness of the Balinese dance with the use of rich and vibrant colours, shows his understanding and appreciation of the Balinese culture as well as his reverence for the dance with its deep religious significance. The dark blue framing of the dancers and musicians, a distinct style of Meier's, makes them the central focus of this piece thus placing importance on these subjects, which are dependent on each other for the Rejang dance. This compositional arrangement of the dancers and musicians, despite depicting structure and rigidity also underlines the fluid movements and resonating sounds of the brass instruments. His attention to the intricate details of the headdresses of the dancers and the statuettes indicate Meier's intense interest in the subject that he was painting.
Despite the fact that it was difficult to obtain art supplies in the Dutch Indies and that good quality canvases, oil brushes and paint had to be imported from Europe, Meier painted the Rejang dance scene on a relatively large canvas, perhaps reflecting his desire to fully capture the ambience of the dance and its grandeur. This visually stunning work is not only a depiction of the magnificent traditional Balinese dance, it is also representative of Meier's complete oeuvre. Meier attended the Art Academy of Basle at the tender age of 20 and was deeply inspired by an exhibition of the works of Paul Gauguin. Meier then travelled to France, where he had the privilege of meeting and learning from artists such as Cuno Amiet and Emil Nolde.
In Rejang Dance (Lot 33), there is an adaption of the styles of these artists. Emil Nolde's use of orange, yellow, and green hues, Cuno Amiet's brush strokes and blend of colours and Paul Gauguin's strong and stark colour contrasts are evident in Meir's work. In addition, Gauguin's iconic outline of the figures in a contrasting colour as well as the use of red and blue hues is also evident in Meier's other work in the day sale, Two Women in a Garden with a Balinese Mask.
The incorporation of these techniques enhanced his ability to manage colours brilliantly and portray reality in a fantastical manner. Through this, Meier was able to find a new form of expression. What will forever remain a secret of the artist is his manipulation of colours to create a desired effect, as there is a certain luminosity of the colours in the painting despite their strength and the vibrancy. This could have been achieved through the intensification of each individual colour by applying variations of its hues. Meier's mastery and fixation on the Balinese culture as well as his attention to formal composition led him to produce this immaculate piece in honour of the splendor of the Rejang Dance.

More from Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

View All
View All