This present lot, Le Pergola, is a quintessential work from Le Mayeur’s Bali period for it represents a visual achievement of his favourite motifs: women, sunlight and flora. It is well documented that Le Mayeur took great care in cultivating his surroundings, adorning his beach side cottage with a plethora of flowers, plants, little temples and ponds. He once remarked: "You will understand my paintings wherever you may see them. For everything in this little paradise which I created for myself was made to be painted." (Dr Jop Ubbens & Dr Cathinka Huizing, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres: Painter-Traveller/ Schilder-Reiziger, Pictures Publishers, Wijk en Aalburg, 1995, p.120)
Le Mayeur often painted en plein air in the manner of the Impressionists. He captures beautifully the luminous, orange glow cast from the afternoon sun as it streams through the arbour and suffuses the entire scene with dancing, kaleidoscopic colours. Paint is applied loosely; the artwork shimmers and vibrates with the unmixed dabs of colour that suggest flower petals floating languidly around. Furthermore, Le Mayeur’s thick brushstrokes impart upon the painting an air of spontaneity, reflecting the Impressionist credo in which an artist attempts to render not the landscape itself but the sensation caused by it.
Le Mayeur’s sensitivity towards natural light and its ever changing conditions also echoes the innovations of Impressionists such as Claude Monet or Pierre-Auguste Renoir. One can observe the myriad ways in which he captures light with dexterity and a sense of elation. Similar works such as Dancers (Fig.1) show the sun’s rays strained through dense trees, casting a green shade over the image. The romantic, albeit fantasised, allure of Le Pergola is accentuated by the warm, orange glow that permeates the scene.
Ultimately, Le Pergola presents the viewer an image of paradise as the artist himself saw it. It is a wonderful demonstration of Le Mayeur’s characteristic colour palette of vibrant reds, pinks and purples. The vivid colouring of the figures, blended harmoniously with the earthy tonality of their surroundings, suggest a unity with nature.
Le Pergola captures a moment of quiet repose set in the artist’s sun drenched arbour—as if Le Mayeur’s famed dancing figures have chosen this idyllic setting to find retreat and rest. One of the figures shades her back from the sun with a parasol and kneels regally in the centre, while the other women are depicted in a variety of effortless and graceful poses. It is widely known that Le Mayeur’s portrayal of feminine beauty was greatly inspired by the artist’s profound affection for his wife, Ni Pollock, who continued to model for him. In the present painting, the figures are arranged in a loose, circular fashion, a compositional device very much favoured by the artist. Each figure exudes an aura of feminine elegance sporting their green and red sarongs in the luscious surroundings. One can see Le Mayeur’s delight in rendering the delicate and lithe bodies of the women, as the intertwining vines of the flora mimic their sinuous contours.
The women are ensconced within the wooden framework of the arbour while the exquisite bounty of colourful flowers adorning it creates a charming arch above-- an ideal setting that compliments their poise and charisma. Le Mayeur includes an expansive ocean view that recedes into the background, a composition that is also seen in Renoir’s Le Dejeuner au Bord de la Riviere (Fig. 2) where the artist opens up the rather tightly composed foreground with a framed view of the river in the background.
Le Pergola is truly a chronicle of Balinese beauty as seen through the artist’s eyes and brush. It exudes a sense of vitality and joy in its rhapsody of saturated colours and luminosity; an ode to Le Mayeur’s love and affection for his chosen home.
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