Whatever the subject of Le Pho's paintings, it is transformed immediately into an authentic vision of beauty and joie de vivre: everything is illuminated by light, filled with human warmth, gentleness, dreams and lyricism. This is true to his impressionistic garden scenes and floral compositions and equally true to his silk work as exemplified by the present lot. As a material, the smooth and soft surface of the silk gives an immediate softening and shimmering effect to the subject, which is particularly befitting for a sitter who is evoked of a bygone era of antiquity.
Born into a family of scholar-gentry status with his father being the viceroy of Tonkin, it was no doubt that the traditional Tonkinese thinking from the 18th century would have an indelible impact on the artist's aesthetics. This is regardless of the artistic training and practice of Western art for Le Pho. Encouraged by his French teachers Victor Tardieu and Joseph Inguimberty at the Beaux Arts of Hanoi, Le Pho pursued his artistic expression with a relentless effort to synthesize both the East and West. The East-West dichotomy could be discussed extensively with the works of Le Pho and it remains at best a superficial observation as it is an apparent quality of the artist's oeuvres.
The present work, however, gives an added dimension to the artist's artistic tendency. Femme assise unlike his other silk works, is not a synthesis of the East-West aesthetics but a work that is purely oriental in all its essence. Depicting the sitter in full frontal pose, dressed in a formal costume of a lady of standing, her gaze is unabashedly intent and engaging. Contrary to a Western painting, Oriental portraitures, particularly those of the Chinese of which the Vietnamese modeled after, emphasized only the fine silhouette of the sitter with no regards to perspective or the effect of lighting and shading. The depicted sitter is completely 2 dimensional with a lightness of being reminiscent of the Tang-Song masters of China and thence evoked a sense of classic with the present canvas.
If the silk works of the artist that were developed after the 40s revealed but a superficial resemblance to the Oriental works, Femme assise truly testifies to the artist's profound understanding of the traditional style and his mastery of the technique. It is perhaps for this reason that dated it 1934, Femme assise was included in a retrospective show of the artist that traced the development of Le Pho from 1931 to 1960s and the present canvas is the only work with such a distinct and pure style that distinguished it from the rest. Ultimately, this is the work that is the perfect and poetic instance of the artist's affinity with his ancient roots.