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Five Women on the Beach

Five Women on the Beach
signed 'J. Le Mayeur' (lower left)
oil on canvas in the artist’s hand-carved Balinese frame
56 x 66 cm. (22 x 26 in.)
Painted circa. 1947
Private collection
Anon. Sale; Christie's Singapore, 1 October 1995, Lot 609
Private collection
Anon. Sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, 25 May 2014, Lot 112
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Huizing and Ubbens, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres: Painter-Traveller, Wijk en Aalburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1995 (illustrated, p.164).
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

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Lot Essay

"I've had a cottage built on the seashore, far away from the other people, especially the Europeans. As it is in the middle of a paddy
it can only be approached by way of the beach our little house makes up a worthy frame around [Pollok's] beauty."
- Drs. Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres: Painter-Traveller , Wijk en Aalburg, 1995, p.109

Located between the Indonesian islands of Java and Lombok, Bali has been a rich source of inspiration for artists, writers, musicians all over the world. The island was a paradise for many of the Indo- European Modern Masters, Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, included. He devoted himself to depicting his immediate surroundings: the Balinese people, the luxuriant flora, the beach and the sea, usually bathed in exuberant sunlight.

Five Women on the Beach depicts five women on the beach picking flowers, and is a classic example of these idyllic scenes situated around his own beachfront cottage in Sanur, which he built with his wife, a local Balinese dancer Ni Pollok, who served as his muse and his life partner. Indeed, she is instantly recognizable as the woman holding the flower basket in the painting. At this point in time, Le Mayeur’s style had evolved from the elongated figures with exaggerated hands and feet that characterized his pre-war style, but rather a more elaborate and detailed style, with greater emphasis placed on the surroundings. The entire scene is set in a ‘vista’, with a view to the horizon and the sparkling sea, bounded by branches of dense blooms, giving the work a sense of depth. Figures like the elegant Balinese women here are painted within a spacious surrounding, positioned as such against the vast expanse of the beach and sea. The various attitudes of the women are a visual trope in Le Mayeur’s body of work; standing figures with upstretched arms or sitting on the ground under a yellow umbrella are a recurring image, grouped in small varied groups of twos or threes.

A key feature of Le Mayeur’s paintings is his masterly ability in rendering light and colour. In this painting, the sunlight is depicted very subtly. The long dark shadows cast across the sandy beach, and the accents of white pigment discerningly dotted and dashed in selective areas of skin, contribute to the luminosity of the atmosphere. The right side of the painting is dominated by vibrant magenta and plum shades offset against the emerald foliage to emphasise the tropical environment. Against these highly saturated tones, Le Mayeur has used very gentle earthy tones of blues, beiges, oranges and pinks to create a sense of contrast, which heightens the idea of perspective and lightness and create a sense of depth. These visual devices brings to mind La plage de Trouville (The Beach at Trouville) by Claude Monet, who similarly employs the use of dark colours in the foreground and lighter more neutral palettes in the background to create a sense of expansiveness and depth in his work. As a late proponent of European Neo-Impressionism, there is no doubt that the work of Monet had a great influence on Le Mayeur’s style of painting, which combined with his own techniques to capture the idyllic moments of Balinese life.

Despite the fact that Le Mayeur has made countless paintings and sketches of Bali and its people, every work captures a different face and perspective of island life and its inhabitants. It is through the eyes of artists such as Le Mayeur that we see a tropical paradise filled with bustling marketplaces, sacred religious Hindu ceremonies and traditional dances that all weave together and form the cultural fabric of this Indonesian island, but also the realties and lived experiences of the individuals who exist amongst these often romanticised and exotic depictions of Bali life through the artist’s more subtle portraits. Five Women on the Beach presents a record of the inspiration that Bali has provided over the past centuries and provides a glimpse of a destination that continues to attract artists seeking out inspiration even today.

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