1012A

Details & Cataloguing

Modern Art Evening Sale

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Hong Kong

Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès
1880 - 1958
AROUND THE LOTUS POND
signed
oil on canvas
in the original hand-carved Balinese frame
101 by 120.5 cm; 39 3/4  by 47 1/2  in.
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Provenance

Acquired directly from the artist at his Bali Estate
Private Collection, California, USA
Christie's Hong Kong, 26 May 2012, Lot 2012
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale
Private Asian Collection

Catalogue Note

The Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès first migrated to the island of Bali in 1932, and it was there that he found his own artistic paradise, just as Gauguin had become famously enthralled by Tahiti in his time. Initially planning to stay for only 8 months, Le Mayeur would remain on the island for the rest of his life, and this period became his most illustrious and distinguished across his artistic career. Bali proved to be the artist’s most enduring muse, and he devoted himself to the task of capturing the visual richness of the natural landscape and the Balinese people. Around the Lotus Pond is an exuberant, wonderfully-realized work from Le Mayeur’s later years, before his death in 1958. However, this work shows the artist in full control of his creative energies, and was produced at the end of his vivid ‘red’ period, marking a tonal shift as he began to use increasing amounts of green in his compositions – in this transition the present piece displays a harmonious balance of both, all in his signature lightness of brush.

Around the Lotus Pond carries all of Le Mayeur’s signature aesthetic touches – depicting elegant Balinese women amidst abundant flora. The women are gathered around a lotus pond - inspired by the same pond in the artist’s Balinese home – and surrounded by dense flowers, all painted in a distinctly Impressionist style. The pond is at the focal centre of the work with lilies floating upon its placid surface, rendered in organic, blended strokes reminiscent of Monet’s own iconic Water Lilies series. Le Mayeur derived his artistic vision from the work of pioneering Impressionists, and channeled much of Monet’s expressive attention to detail in this piece. Monet too painted from his garden at home in Giverny, and both artists were inspired by the immediacy of nature, capturing the subtle reflections of light off the water’s surface and a naturalistic sense of depth.

Beyond this, the overhanging arch of flowers shade and entirely enclose the scene, as if creating a hidden private nook into which a viewer has intruded. Each individual flower and figure appears as small, ‘broken’ single brushstrokes, indicating the overall visual effect and all essential forms, yet without excess overwhelming detail. His brush therefore imparts the painting with a sense of spontaneity, as he strove to embody not only the setting but the immediate emotions caused by it.

Le Mayeur had also been entirely captivated by the women on the island, committing them to all his canvases. Characteristic of his style, the women are captured in candid, quieter moments, standing over the pond and completely absorbed in the setting, with backs facing the audience. Wearing intricately detailed sarongs and headdresses, they are posed in quiet elegance, a perfect complement to the unearthly beauty of the natural environment around them. The women are arranged around the pond in a rough circular manner, a composition the artist frequently returned to as a display of perspective and distance in the piece. They are all in the midst of movement – as if arrested in time - and all this is a testament to Le Mayeur’s mastery of action in figures, using bold strokes to describe arms, legs and figures and fully delineating the line of the body.

As a luminist, Le Mayeur paid especial attention to the accurate depiction and interaction of light upon his scene, creating a field of exuberant, varied colour. While his work was impressionistic by nature, he was especially focused on the fidelity of colour and light upon the surfaces of leaves, water, and flowers – for example, planting masses of bougainvillea, frangipani, hibiscus and varieties of tropical plants, exclusively for him to paint from. The artist specifically opted to work en plein air, simply to observe all the transient effects of the tropical sunlight, and as a result his canvas was naturally infused with it. This warm, tropical palette of pinks, purples and greens – both luminous and natural at the same time – became his artistic trademark, mimicking how streams of sunlight wove through the foliage and reflected off into a kaleidoscope of hues.

Combining the best of Western Impressionist traditions and a reverent eye for the Balinese landscape and its people, the artist devoted himself entirely to the pursuit of beauty and artistry. Around the Lotus Pond showcases Le Mayeur’s rich, continuously evolving technique and experimentation with colour even up to the end of his career, and is a transcendent example of Le Mayeur’s lifelong affection for his spiritual home.

Modern Art Evening Sale

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Hong Kong