ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (BELGIUM, 1880-1958)
PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (BELGIUM, 1880-1958)

Women Weaving

Details
ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (BELGIUM, 1880-1958)
Women Weaving
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.)

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

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Lot Essay

The Belgian painter-traveller Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres is one of the most celebrated 20th Century artists who lived and painted in Bali, the mystical island in the Indonesian archipelago known for its outstanding natural beauty and cultural richness. Le Mayeur proved to be one of the island’s most famous foreign artists, having built his life and artistic career around the articulation of beauty in a tropical paradise. He became enthralled by the beauty of Bali upon his arrival in 1932, where he would create vibrant canvases filled with light, colour and movement, painting his muse and later his wife Ni Pollok, a Balinese legong dancer, alongside with her friends as they offered flowers, danced and engaged in daily activities.

The female figure in Indonesian modern art is one that holds significant cultural and historical meaning. Women held important roles in many traditional Southeast Asian communities, often given prominent roles in indigenous rituals, as well as providing a major source of labour both in the agricultural and domestic markets. This is evident in the various classical compositions that Le Mayeur portrayed them in, amongst which are depictions of women at a loom, weaving traditional Indonesian fabrics that are sold in markets.

Women Weaving testifies to Le Mayeur’s masterful arrangement of composition. It is also a marvellous example of the many iconic works the artist painted in Bali, most of which were depictions of his immediate surroundings, around the villa he built for himself and his wife at the beachfront of Sanur. The lush tropical backdrop of Le Mayeur home served as the stage for his dynamic and evocative portrayals of Ni Pollok – his exclusive model, muse and wife. Presented in the scene are five women working at the weaving looms in the shades of exuberant tropical greenery, with the three of them in the foreground forming a triangle that anchors and balances the structure of the scene. The illusion of depth is rendered with a linear perspective, manifested by the diminishing sizes of the two weavers in the middle and background and further enhanced by the aligned sculptures in the background are in parallel to the layout of the weavers. The visage of the central figure facing out to the audience is recognizable as Ni Pollok's. Le Mayeur’s Two Balinese Women at A Loom can be regarded as a study for the current example, as Ni Pollok and the woman on her left are depicted in nearly the same poses as they are in the present lot. A rich and vibrant tropical colour palette is reflected on the woven fabric, as well as the clothes and head pieces of the weavers. The warm tropical sunlight glistens and shines on every surface that it gets in contact with, recalling idyllic and dream-like scenarios.

Although Le Mayeur drew on his natural environment for inspiration, he often created idealised figures and scenes to illuminate the beauty of Bali and its natives. A significant artistic contribution of Le Mayeur is the amalgamation of his masterful rendering of light and colour in the impressionist manner and figurative representations. In this scene, the golden light that permeates every gap in the overhead foliage, sprinkles beam of warmth onto the depicted subjects. The projections of sunlight highlight the at once soft yet muscular contour of each figure. The sensuality of the female bodies is intensified by the detailed depictions, as well as the contrast between light and shadow on the skins. Sprinkles of lights making appearances amidst vivid colours create a dynamic and lively visual rhythm in the picture plane.

Differentiating from his highly impressionist pre-war painting style, Le Mayeur’s post-war style is characterized by smaller brushwork, greater detail and thicker impasto. Depictions of fabric patterns, warp threads, flowers, and sculptures in the background are rendered in great detail and thick impastos. Dominant hues of orange and yellow, which are typical of the artist post-war colour palette, conveys the impression of a warm tropical climate. Varying shades of green on the trees takes up majority space in the background, testifying to the artist’s preference for green in this era. Although the figures are presented front and centre, selective depictions of details establish them as a harmonious part of the environment, denoting the compositional characteristic of Le Mayeur during this period.

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