“Sir, I’m an Impressionist. There are three things in life that I love. Beauty, sunlight and silence.”
The vast expanse of Le Mayeur’s oeuvre was condensed into three words by the painter himself: beauty, sunlight and silence. He found all three elements in the tiny Bali island: the picturesque beauty of its green vistas, the sunlit seas and its profusion of placid tranquillity. Immersed in an Impressionist’s paradise, the enraptured artist was consumed with the need to render the sights on canvas, working en plein air to capture the sunlit atmosphere. A brief divergence from his sun-drenched opus, Balinese Maidens by the Balcony is one of the exceptional interior pieces that attest to the artist’s ability to work with varying degrees of light. Shrouded in muted light, the scenery radiates with the warm domesticity and provides a soothing repose from the endless sunlight that characterized his works.
Set on a relentless pursuit of light, the artist transformed all facets of his life to serve him in moments of inspiration. Modelling his home after the radiant ambiance of the Balinese shores, Le Mayeur’s coastal abode was architecturally glorious, featuring open walls and expansive windows that displayed a vast panorama of the serene seaside. The artist shifted the domestic synergy of the household to satisfy his creative urges and forbade the hired Balinese women to work in the late afternoon. Finding beauty in their natural state, he sought to capture them in various positions around the house, claiming that “during those hours I wanted them to sit around in their beautiful sarongs, weaving fine fabrics.” In the hazy glow of the setting sun, the maestro found the muted, softened quality most conducive for his interior scenes. Predominantly composed with rustic and earthy tones, the shadowed interior serves as a comfortable solace for the Balinese maidens. Marvelling at his surroundings, the artist enthused about finding his Eden in the Bali paradise, “I’ve evidently made all things serviceable to my art. All my actions have but one purpose: facilitating my work.”
In the quiet depths of the shaded veranda, Le Mayeur unveils an intimate, spiritual moment shared amongst the lounging women. Framed by the wooden beams of the traditional Balinese shaded interior, the women are in blissful contentment within their cultural milieu. Hanging overhead is a golden mask, resplendent even in muted light, serving as gentle reminder of the feminine energy that pervades the household. The maidens circulate around an effigy, or mask, poised in enchanted reverence. Their bowed bodies lean over the table in quiet contemplation, pulling the viewer’s gaze towards the mask, as if the icon itself unifies them in an unbreakable bond. The crouching women caress the chiseled face in veneration, the sedate peacefulness of their movements evoking a calm feeling that radiates throughout the work. Exquisitely sculpted in thick, bold brushstrokes of umber and ocher, the women are in harmony with russet brown interior, their figures exuding a passionate warmth. Even under cool shelter, Le Mayeur instills the scene with the recognizable, heated glow experienced in his paintings. As expected of the lover of light, Le Mayeur paints lustrous rays that manage to filter through the adumbral shade, grazing the seated woman in brief, shortened strokes of yellow. Under the adept fluidity of Le Mayeur’s brushstrokes, the prosaic image is transformed into a beatific scene of domestic comforts.
Backlit by the flourishing garden, the shadowed maidens pose in warm contrast to the sun-kissed greenery behind them. The azure ocean lies shimmering in the far distance, instilling the painting with dimensionality and depth. Applied with thinner, undulating strokes of verdure green, the oscillating movements of the lush field evoke the effects of a sultry tropical heatwave. Interspersed across the balmy garden were an array of lampposts and sculptures, the densely packed landscape mirroring the architecture of Le Mayeur’s home as well: “…and all around the cottage I put groups of intertwining plants. I built little temples, completely made of white coral, dug little ponds...” The maestro’s meticulous attention to detail is prevalent throughout the picturesque scene. On the left side of the work, he includes a hand of bananas lying unattended in a Balinese dish, a charming complement to the white and pink patterned tablecloth. Even in the secluded confines of his own home, the various Balinese artifacts that furnish the property are no longer just functional, but possess an aesthetic, inspiring purpose for the visionary.
Balinese Maidens by the Balcony is a romantic reflection of the artist finding beauty in the simple, quotidian scenes. The Balinese landscape, with its abundant offerings of sunlight and alluring vistas was no stranger to the Impressionist’s eye, yet the vast series of exhilaratingly innovative works in his opus suggest that the artist would have remained painting with an endless virtuosity till his death.
 Joy Ubbens, Cathinka Huzing, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, 1880-1958: Painter-Traveller/Schilder-Reiziger, Amsterdam 1995, p. 120
 Ubbens and Huzing, p. 119
 Ubbens and Huzing, p. 105
 Ubbens and Huzing, p. 120