ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (1880-1958)
ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (1880-1958)

Women by the Lotus Pond

Details
ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (1880-1958)
Women by the Lotus Pond
signed 'J. Le Mayeur' (lower left)
oil on canvas, in the original hand-carved Balinese frame
100 x 120 cm. (39 3/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Painted in the late 1930s
Provenance
Christie's Singapore, 4 October 1998, Lot 236
Acquired from the above by the previous owner
Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2005, Lot 18
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Lot Essay

After extensive travels all around the world at the beginning of the 1930s, the Belgian artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprs finally dropped anchor on the tropical island of Bali. During his travels he was looking for inspiration which he found in the light, the colours and the women of Bali. After he married his favourite model, Ni Pollok, the cottage and garden they built themselves on the beach in Sanur, became his favourite location serving as a setting for his paintings. He wanted to surround himself "with nothing but beauty" and turned the place into a true paradise full of exuberant trees and flowers, terraces, pergolas, little temples, statues and lotus ponds. This all "makes up a worthy frame around Pollok's beauty". Every day for 25 years she modelled in various attitudes for the numerous paintings he composed. The sceneries with the maiden he observed in his own paradise, bathed in bright sunlight, were all highly interesting subjects for him to illustrate.

Moreover, this beautiful balanced painting The Lotus Pond (Lot XXX), depicts four women, all modelled after Le Mayeur's muse, his wife, Ni Pollok. Her physiognomy is especially recognizable in the figure crouching on the right side of the pond. Three other female figures are placed around and in the lotus pond which is situated between two structures with white walls and blue window frames. Between the two constructions, a pergola is slightly visible and overgrown with purple and pink flowers. A shrub of elephant ears plant is painted behind the lotus pond. The whole charming scene is very intimate for being situated in a sort of open space, flanked by the two buildings with an open view to the suggested horizon in the back, fringed by flowered branches suggesting depth. The subject is very charming as well, looking as if the women are playing and trying to catch goldfishes. Just a casual moment of four women having fun was registered by Le Mayeur. Because two of the girls are painted from the back, the whole scene has an intimate atmosphere, which for me, added with the general beauty of simplicity, the spirituality and brilliance of Le Mayeur's eye and technique.

With short accurate strokes, Le Mayeur created a very sophisticated work, which can be dated in the years just before the World War II. An intense and subtle use of colour in combination with sparkling light effects is the main force in his pre-war Balinese works. Typical for this period is the fact that the painter achieved an artistic feeling in his canvas by simply displaying larger colour areas. In his post-war canvases he painted elaborately and with more details. In the Lotus Pond, he only heightened the large leaves of the plant with white paint. And he accented using bold yellow strokes on the skin of back and arms to suggest sunspots. He was also suggesting flowers and leaves with patches and dots of paint without ever entering into great detail.

By the brilliantly effective colouring, the artist was able to capture the brightness and colourfulness of the tropical scene. As the decisive use of light, the use of colour is very subtle and modest in this image. The palette in this painting could be dominated by the greens, but are instead refined not only by the reds in the sarongs, but also by the areas of white shown in the upper part of the painting as well as in the middle, in the large spot in the lotus pond as in the lotus flowers themselves. Yellow warms up the scene, being used in the scarves around the waist of one figure and on the head of another as well in the above mentioned sunspots on the skin of the women.
With the use of contrast in respect to light and dark colours, the painter created sunspots and depth. The large spot of white he painted in the pond, to mirror the sky and the white walls of the structures are a very clever idea and beautiful solution to bring more light in the painting.

Furthermore, another striking characteristic of Le Mayeur's pre-war style is the way he painted the body parts. Seen in the depiction of feet, arms and hands, his creations are subject to unrestrained interpretation of anatomy. The hands are very large as are the feet. The arms are elongated and bent. This all contributes to the artistic and expressive style in which Le Mayeur painted at the end of the 1930s.

Next to the rendering of light and use of colour, this canvas is made even more attractive and refined by the fact that Le Mayeur created rhythm in the picture. Not only through the use of colour and light, but also by the repetition of the form of the leaves of the elephant ears in the leaves of the water lilies in the pond, the painting acquires a strong calming balance. Also the reappearance of the bent arms in the foreground with the form of an arm echoed in the surface of the water and again in the stretched arm of the figure in the back of the pond contributes to the sophisticated quality of this very fine example of Le Mayeur's pre-war oeuvre.

Written by Drs. Cathinka Huizing
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