"Except for a few journeys to the Far East, I never left the island. Why should I ? Sir, I am an impressionist. There are three things in life that I love. Beauty, sunlight and silence. Now could you tell me where to find these in a more perfect state than in Bali ?" (Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprhs: Painter-Traveller 1880-1958, Pictures Publishers, The Netherlands, 1995, p. 105.)
A self-professed impressionist who came to appreciate and embrace the beauty of Bali with a vigor unprecedented in his life, a life, which is punctuated with frequent sojourns to foreign land and culture. Rendering the beauty of Bali, of its landscape and of its lush gardens and more notably the beauty of its women, which is embodied in the depiction of the artist's singular sitter - Ni Pollok, his model and wife are the essential elements to one's understanding of Le Mayeur 's Balinese oeuvres. Aesthetics pursuit is the artist's only preoccupation in these sun-drenched canvases, true to the spirit of an impressionist par sang and the artist makes no excuse for it,
"I planted a mass of bougainvillea, frangipani, hibiscus, and all around the cottage I put groups of intertwining plants. I built little temples, completely made of white coral, dug little ponds in which the reflections of all the Gods of Hindu mythology can be seen among the sacred lotus flowers. The two temples are surrounded by approximately two hundred of these little sculptures, which have integrated with the flowers whose silhouettes are drawn on the purple and pink topic skies. ...
I've evidently made all things serviceable to my art. All my actions have but one purpose: facilitating my work. And my urge to set to work and render expression to all these things enchanting me never left me for even a single instant during all those years." (Ibid, pp. 119-120)
Thanks to the provenance of the work, one could ascertain the date of the completion of the present lot between 1950-1951 as we are told that the purchase was made in about 1951. We know that the artist's celebrated status and exotic environ did make his residence a quasi tourist attraction to the visitors of the island in the 1950s and in fact "From Bali-Hotel to Sanur (sea bath in Sanur, swimming and opportunity to visit Mr. Le Mayeur, painter. Duration 3 hour)" was a recommendation on the promotional brochure for Bali prepared by a Dutch travel company, KPM. Indeed many visitors came and amongst them were celebrities such as Nehru, Vicki Baum, Pearl S. Buck and Nevil Shute. The original owner of the present lot was Dr. D. Reid Tweedie who was a well known and respected member of the Malayan medical community. Dr. Tweedie who knew the artist and Pollok bought the present lot directly from the artist, remained very much attached to the work till his passing in 1984. The present lot had remained in Dr. Tweedie's residence, The White House in Perak from the day of its purchase till 1984 when the family sent it back to London.
The present work Women around the lotus pond measuring 150 x 200 cm is in fact the largest sized work known by the artist. Three works of comparable scale are in the Collection of President Sukarno and one in The Private Collection of Maison Des Palmes. Entitled Woman lying under a parasol, flanked by two other women, with several figures in background (150 x 200 cm, oil on canvas), and illustrated in Lukisan dan patung Kolleksi Presiden Sukarno Dari Republik Indonesia, which was edited by Lee Man Fong (Tokyo, 1964, Vol. IV, no. 64.), the work from the presidential collection depicted the same sea view decorated with the luxuriant foliage and flowers of the tropics as the one from the The Collection of Maison des Palmes except that Pollok is reclining in a different position.
One other known work of comparable scale is recorded in the book authored by Drs. Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, titled Women in and by a pond, this work is illustrated on page 180, no. 283. Interestingly, all of these works could be dated to the artist's post-war Balinese period (early 1950s) and it has been observed that "Compared with his pre-war Balinese works, the figures tend to be, literally in the background more and more. They became smaller, less the center of attention. On the other hand, their number is increasing, so that the compositions feature up to five or even ten figures now. Usually these figures are placed under an arch of boughs and flowers. Spaciousness is heightened by the inclusion of the beach and seascape in the background." (Drs. Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprhs: Painter-Traveller, Wijk en Aalburg, 1995, p. 173.)
The present work contains all the quintessential elements as described on the above. The diligent portrayal of both material and ethereal beauty of his subjects renders such a tight composition that it is almost a struggle to read a space. Sunlight, foliage, flower and feminine figures coalesce on the surface of the painting to suggest a kind of essential presence, untarnished by time.