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.
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