La Montée au Temple Bali (Ascension to the Temple Bali)

La Montée au Temple Bali (Ascension to the Temple Bali)
signed 'J. Le Mayeur' (lower left); titled ‘The ascend of the tempel / La montée au temple Bali’ (on the reverse)

oil on canvas
101 x 121 cm. (39 3/4 x 47 5/8 in.)
Acquired in Indonesia in the 1950s by the previous owner
Thence by descent to the present owner
Private Collection, South America

The artwork comes with a certificate of authenticity from Drs. Cathinka Huizing
Sale room notice
Please note that Lot 31 has updated signature detail and comes with a certificate of authenticity by Dr. Cathinka Huizing.
拍品編號31 附已更新的款識詳情,及附Dr. Cathinka Huizing所發之保證書。

Brought to you by

Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Lot Essay

The important painting La Montée au temple, Bali, or The Ascend of the Tempel (Lot 31) as Le Mayeur wrote on the reverse of his canvas, shows us the typical Balinese ritual of the daily morning offerings. In the front of the scene we see two women sitting together in charge of assembling flower petals for the canang sari, the daily gift to the gods and spirits. Behind them, central in the painting, is the temple, surrounded by flowerbeds guarded by statues of Hindi gods. On the right, two other women are standing in line with their baskets in order to give them to their friends who are reaching to the top of the temple to place the offerings in. In the distance beyond, the sea and the sky are visible.

This puri was probably the temple Le Mayeur built in Sanur when he started to live there with his beautiful wife Ni Pollok in 1935. In a rice paddy just behind the beach they created a little paradise of their own. In a letter to a friend Le Mayeur writes “our little house makes up a worthy frame around her [Pollok’s] beauty.” The housing compound included a cottage and a lush garden full of exuberant trees and flowers, terraces, pergolas, little temples, statues and lotus ponds which served as the setting for most of his paintings. Le Mayeur who had been searching for colour and light everywhere in the world wanted to surround himself “with nothing but beauty”. The artist travelled extensively through Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India before settling down in Bali where he found the three things in life that he loved: Beauty, sunlight and silence. He was entranced with the island, stating “Now could you tell me where to find these in a more perfect state than in Bali?” The daily activities of the Balinese maiden were all highly encouraging subjects for him to illustrate. “When one saw those beautiful girls dressed in their finest silk sarongs with flowers in their hair, and carrying themselves like princesses, it was difficult to imagine that they were actually a cook and a chamber girl.” Rendering this peaceful scene depicted in La Montée au temple, with a portrait of Ni Pollok contemplating while gathering flower petals, was a challenging enterprise indeed.

Ni Pollok’s full visage is shown, with her eyes demurely looking down to the basket with flower petals. The faces of the other girls are not recognizable. The eye of the beholder is drawn to Ni Pollok’s figure first, and then led upwards to the top of the painting. The way the four women are depicted, with their arms gracefully pointing upwards to the top of the temple attributes to a triangular composition. The whole scene is set on the right side of the canvas, whilst the left side shows just statues and plants.

Although the canvas is ‘laying’, in the so called landscape format, the composition is vertical. Le Mayeur reached this impression by accentuating the verticals in the depiction, via a repetition of vertical forms: the temple in the middle, the vertical attitudes of the standing women, the vertical pole of the pergola, the vertical statues and even the direction of the leaves of the ‘Elephants ears’ are upwards.

Notably striking as well is the way the female figures are depicted. They are elongated, as are the arms and fingers of the ladies. A striking characteristic of Le Mayeur’s pre-war style is the way he painted the body of his figures. Seen in the depiction of feet, arms and hands, his creations are subject to unrestrained interpretation of anatomy.

Le Mayeur’s trademark is his masterly ability in rendering light and colour. In this painting, the morning light is depicted in very subtly. The long dark shadows, accentuated by the almost whitish streaks of light on the ground, on the statues and on the skin of the girls, already bathed in bright sunlight, contribute to this morning feeling. The dominating purples and pinkish tones and hues increase the tropical morning atmosphere. Against these light tones put mostly on the left of the painting, the artist used greys and dark greens contrastingly on the right side. The sky on this side of the canvas is purple and pink which might indicate a very early hour, the first rising of the dawn. With this play of light and dark colours, the painter created a contrast also in order to suggest depth. Next to the colours purple, pink, red and orange and other gentle earthy colours Le Mayeur used a little white and soft blues for the sea and the sky. This contrast also heightens the idea of perspective and lightness.

The image was built with quick, short and pasty strokes of the brush. Extremely accurate and artistic, Le Mayeur’s innate ability to suggest flowers and leaves with random patches, blobs and dots of thick paint without ever entering into great detail is without parallel.

Because of all the mentioned features I can conclude that this very sophisticated work, 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 Le Mayeur’s pre-war Balinese works. Typical for this period additionally is the fact that the painter achieved an artistic feeling in his canvas by simply adding colour patches. Later, in his post-war canvases he painted more elaborately and with more details. At the end of the 1930s and early 1940s Le Mayeur painted in an artistic and free style of which this beautiful painting is a fine example.

April 2018 Drs. C.Z. Huizing

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