Lot 292
  • 292

JOSEPH INGUIMBERTY | Réunion de Femmes (Gathering of the Ladies),

350,000 - 550,000 HKD
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  • Réunion de Femmes (Gathering of the Ladies),
  • Signed
  • Oil on canvas
  • 73 by 100 cm; 28 3/4  by 39 1/2  in.


Christie's Hong Kong, May 29 2016, Lot 314
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Private Asian Collection


The work is in good condition overall. There is some light buckling on the top right of the canvas, possibly due to a loose stretching. Upon close observation, a gentle craquelure is found on the middle of the top margin (approximately 5 cm) and on the middle of the left margin (dark green paint). Examination under ultraviolet light shows restoration on the lower portion of the right edge and some tiny areas scattered on the figures and surrounding area. However, this is not visible with the naked eye. Framed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The advent of colonial art schools in Vietnam catalyzed a palpable shift in local artistic representation, laying the foundations for an upsurge of innovations in the country’s modern art movements. The most important school was the École supérieure des beaux-arts de l'Indochine which aimed to train students in European techniques while also preserving of the practice of traditional Vietnamese mediums such as silk and lacquer, thus unifying Eastern and Western elements in its philosophy/approach. The French painter Joseph Inguimberty was appointed as professor of advanced studies at the institution, and a key driver of this development and became as much part of the local art circle as he was leader of it  Réunion de Femmes (Gathering of the Ladies) is a charming example of his signature outdoor compositions exemplifying the artist’s strengths in en plein-air painting and his mastery of capturing light in all its vivid qualities.  The number of noted first-generation Vietnamese artists that Inguimberty mentored are testament to his legacy—Vu Cao Dam, Le Pho, Nguyen Gia Tri, Bui Xuan Phai, Mai Trung Thu, and so on. In France, his mastery was recognized as well. He was awarded the National Prize for Painting at the 1924 Salon, and the French President bestowed on him the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France. Before arriving in Hanoi, Inguimberty had the privilege of exploring the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean. However, only in Vietnam did he begin a 20-year long love affair with a country’s poetic landscapes and people. Ngyen Quang Phong once described Inguimberty as being “just like a Vietnamese painter who understands and loves his homeland”[1]. His students remember him for his fastidious observation, and how he would encourage them to paint directly from life. Yet, his works still retain a sense of graceful suppleness.

The present lot is imbued with Inguimberty’s love and fascination with Indochina. Willowy Vietnamese women in traditional Ao Dais and neatly knotted hair gather in a clearing for a seemingly secret rendezvous. The setting is reminiscent to that of The Hammock, one of Inguimberty’s best known works.. However, Reunion de Femmes is different for its more expressionistic and fauvist elements, shown in the looser yet confident brushwork and broad blocks of color. . The women are illuminated by white, loose outlines. Where the rays of sun filter through the canopy, generous highlights of white fused with grey are painted on the women. This evokes a mystical quality upon the subjects, which is characteristic of Inguimberty’s unabashedly romanticized depiction of Vietnamese women. The maestro wanted to capture a feminine universe that was almost dream-like and timeless; a lost paradise where they preserved the innocence of childhood[2]. Some of the women sit, while others stand or walk, but they all possess infinite gentleness and grace. Possibly inspired by the works of leading baroque painter Nicolas Poussin, a curtain of vegetation serves as a background for the women, mimicking a stage set in the classical style[3].

Inguimberty sought refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life in the countryside, where he would cycle around villages to paint farmers, labourers and fishermen. He was a pioneer in portraying the daily lives of the humble people, and did so with inexhaustible passion and care. His fondness for the country its people is palpable in Reunion de Femmes, a rare work by the pioneering artist and much-loved teacher.

[1] Nora Taylor, "Orientalism/Occidentalism: The founding of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’indochine and the politics of painting in colonial Vietnam 1925-1945", Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 11:2, Northern Illinois University, 1997, p.11

[2] Joseph Inguimberty, Premier catalogue de l’oeuvre peint , Giulia Pentcheff

[3] ibid