The present work Balinese Weaver is an exceptionally rare piece from the artist’s oeuvre. The 1941 date of the piece, the socio-realist style that is reminiscent of Rembrandt, as well as the choice medium used, all provide valuable insight into the origins of Lee Man Fong’s weaver motif. This particular female archetype featured prominently in the Balinese works, as if the artist was trying to capture the energy of the weaver, as much as he wanted to accurately represent the female spirit. Weaver is an early rendition of the female weaver motif, and shows the artist experimenting with composition, colors and aesthetics.
During this period in his career, Lee Man Fong’s color palette revolved around earthy hues, perhaps an instinctive need to become more familiar with the island’s natural landscape. Works created a few years later would see the arrival of brighter colors, such as red, orange, and green. Colors found in the tropical flora and fauna, as well as in the women’s scarves and sarongs. As Balinese Weaver pre-dates this development in his paintings, the work is a revealing look into Lee Man Fong’s artistic maturation, and the development of specific motifs that would come to define his Balinese paintings.
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