Lee Man Fong
- Lee Man Fong
- Setelah Mandi (After the Bath)
- signed, inscribed, stamped with a seal of the artist and dated 1979 in Chinese
- oil on Masonite board
The artist’s classical Chinese studies are apparent throughout the paintings, either in the composition of the landscape scenes or the choice portrayal of women. Though most were depictions of the Balinese locale, there remained a feeling throughout the paintings echoes of his past life growing up in China. Setelah Mandi (After the Bath) is a special piece for it is a complimentary marriage of Western and Eastern ideologies. Shown in the work a woman is finishing her bath and combing her hair. Her quiet charm and presence alludes to the Four Beauties found in Chinese folklore. Although sensual in subject matter, the artist has depicted her respectfully through his artistic lens. The woman’s presence instills in the painting a sense of innocence that is befitting her graceful presence.
The artist’s paintings have that special allure of showcasing Indonesia through the perspective of a Chinese foreigner. Throughout his lifetime Lee Man Fong remained faithful to his paradigm to show the archipelago and its inhabitants in a sensitive light. Much of his oeuvre embraced Chinese aesthetics, notably in the figurative works that revolved around women in a variety of daily activities. Lee Man Fong favored women as a subject matter throughout his oeuvre. The artist chose to paint women as an extended study of the human form and character. The woman in Setelah Mandi (After the Bath) continues in this theme.
The artist’s representation of womanhood is perfectly conveyed within the present work, for the sitter is his physical ideal of grace and charm. Lee Man Fong has captured the woman’s physique with a series of soft lines and pastel colors. Similar attention is shown with the fabric that partially covers her lower body, outlining the soft curves of her torso and legs. The way the material drapes along the floor, emphasizing the artist’s subtle use of light and shadows, accentuates her delicate figure. By rendering the background absent of detail, the narrative is entirely fueled by the woman’s enigmatic role as the artist’s muse.
Lee Man Fong painted only a few nudes throughout his career, choosing instead to portray women in other archetypal roles. The Balinese weaver or maiden were highly favored motifs found in his figurative paintings. It can be said that his approach to the classical nude was slightly different from other works inspired by women. His paintings of nudes were largely absent of narratives, thereby placing complete attention upon the women. Setelah Mandi (After the Bath) contains all the qualities that defined the artist’s notion of womanhood, establishing an intimate rapport between the subject, the artist and subsequently the viewer.
Lee Man Fong had the opportunity to study in Amsterdam during the forties, and this exposure to the Dutch masters had a lasting influence upon his figurative artworks. After his sojourn in Europe, Lee Man Fong’s paintings expressed an interest in ambience and lighting, the artist training his eye to include these aesthetical influences in future paintings. The composition of Setelah Mandi( After the Bath) shares sentiments with European artworks that focus on the classical nude. The woman’s posture and faraway look are hallmarks of the painting genre: she is alone in her actions, unaware of the external gaze, and lost in her own world. Inspired perhaps by a memory or dream, Setelah Mandi (After the Bath) can be seen as Lee Man Fong’s candid depiction of a woman in repose.