Lot 1053
  • 1053

ADRIEN JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS | A Conversation in the Garden

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
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  • Adrien Jean Le Mayeur De Merprès
  • A Conversation in the Garden
  • Signed 
  • Oil on canvas
  • 100cm. by 120cm.; 39½in. by 47¼in., in the original hand- carved Balinese frame


Sotheby's Singapore, 3 October 1998, Lot 26
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Private European Collection 


Jop Ubbens, Cathinka Huizing, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, 1880-1958: Painter-Traveller/Schilder-Reiziger, Pictures Publishers, Amsterdam, 1995, p.134, color plate 200
Haks & Maris, Lexicon of Foreign Artists who Visualized Indonesia, (1600-1950), Utrecht, Archipelago Press,1995, p. 488, color plate C245


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is evidence of craquelure throughout the surface of the work, but this is consistent with the age of the work and the nature of the medium. All other inconsistencies are due to the artist's working method. An inspection of the reverse of the painting reveals a vertical line of restoration at the left edge (bottom side) measuring 10.5 cm. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals an area of restoration on the upper left corner of the work, some small spots of restoration along the right and upper edges of the work, an area of restoration on the bottom left quadrant near the corner (consistent with the area seen on the reverse of the canvas), and very minor pinhead sized spots of restoration at the green background around the periphery of the right side of the parasol and at the right figure's left earring. Framed, in the artist's original frame.
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.

Catalogue Note

The sublime serenity of Bali’s flora, coupled with its vibrant local culture, was an abundant source of inspiration for Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès. The radiant, sunlit climate of the Bali tropics appealed deeply to his Impressionist roots. Fuelled by his penchant for beauty, here he frequently engaged in sittings in plein air to capture the island’s scintillating atmosphere and the lively community that occupied it. He immersed himself in the festive local customs and practices that Bali had to offer, eventually finding a lifelong muse in the Balinese Legong dancer, Ni Pollok, who became his wife. For him, Bali possessed an innate artistic quality that would compel him to take permanent residence there and continue on his fervent pursuit of light. Conversation in the Garden is a stunning testament to Le Mayeur’s mastery over his craft and illustrates an admirable dexterity when capturing the harmonies between light and shade. 
Set in the hidden seclusion of the Balinese landscape, Conversation in the Garden offers a glimpse into the intimate relationship between the tropical island and its inhabitants. Embraced by dense vegetation, two Balinese women take refuge from the tropical heat. The iridescent sky, beaming with pastel blues and violets, provides a cool relief against the sun-drenched fields in the distance, imbuing the painting with a heightened sense of depth and perspective. Standing ablaze in hues of deep crimson and damask pink, the flowers’ blush tones complement the vivid dyes of the women’s sarongs, naturalizing their presence amongst the luxuriant terrain. In between the women lies Le Mayeur’s iconic yellow umbrella, propped against the underbrush and providing shelter against the sultry weather and encloses the reclined ladies in a warm golden embrace. The ingenuity of Le Mayeur’s composition creates a shaded sanctuary of repose for both the women and the viewer to experience together.

Characteristic of his pre-war works (1932-1937), Le Mayeur adopts a more expressive interpretation of the body’s anatomy. The women’s curved figures and enlarged feet are reminiscent of the painter’s more stylized approach in his earlier Bali works, relying on speed and efficiency to capture his emotional response to the scene, as opposed to rendering it with verisimilitude. Their rounded, arched bodies also exude a languorous warmth that suffuses the piece with an intimate, convivial atmosphere, providing an ideal hiding spot for hushed conversations to take place. Resting on her arms, the woman on the left leans towards her friend in a manner of friendly congeniality, her amiable gesture referencing the tender familiarity of friendship. Her listening companion faces the viewer, drawing the viewer into the midst of their private circle. Their carefree composure in the adumbral garden is a restful embodiment of the landscape’s nebulous tranquility.

Le Mayeur’s natural affinity for light manifests in the use of short, bold brushwork to highlight the rich interplay between sunlight and shadow. The gilded sun rays filter through the green thicket, caressing the women’s skin in lustrous brushstrokes that establish a vivid contrast between the areas of sunlit skin and the rest of their shadowed bodies. Le Mayeur’s keen awareness of the subtle relationship between light and shadow enlivens the painting with a rarefied, realistic treatment that attests to his virtuosity as an Impressionist painter. This astute sensitivity to light renders a refreshing contrast between the verdant green garden and the ruby red hibiscuses scattered across the foliage, creating an exquisite marriage of vibrantly contrasting colours that mirrors the diverse variegation of the tropics.

Conversation in the Garden is proof of the Impressionist master’s acuity and flair for rendering the subtle nuances of light and shadow, imbuing the sleepy, idyllic scenery with the serene solitude of the Bali landscape. The quiet placidity of the piece introduces a vastly different aspect to the lively Balinese culture and divulges the hidden, lesser-known aspects of the tropical island. Over the span of twenty-six years, Bali still possessed an endless vat of imagination and beauty for Le Mayeur, inspiring the pinnacle of his opus.