Lot 308
  • 308

LE PHO | Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree)

600,000 - 900,000 HKD
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  • Le Pho
  • Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) 
  • Signed in English and Chinese
  • Oil on canvas
  • 140 by 70 cm; 55 1/4  by 27 1/2  in.
  • Executed in 1956


Galerie Romanet, Paris, France
Private Collection, France


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. Under very close inspection, there is evidence of light cracks at a few areas of thicker impasto but this is consistent with the age and nature of the medium. There are several minor losses to pigment at two flowers near the middle left edge of the work. The paint layers are healthy and stable overall. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals no signs of restoration. 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.

Catalogue Note

“The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world... the picture... which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but looking, both around him and inside him.”-  the artist, Pierre Bonnard, (1867-1947)

Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) is a significant work by Le Pho and is most notably, one of the artist’s personal favorites from his vast oeuvre. Highly influenced by French Post-Impressionist painters, the present work shows the artist’s studious pursuit of the imaginative and iridescent qualities achieved by these maestros of light and color. Apart from the two artists, Victor Tardieau (1870 -1937) and Joseph Inguimberty (1896-1971), who first trained him in the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine, in Hanoi, no other artist would bear a stronger influence upon Le Pho’s artistic direction as Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). After moving to France in 1937, Le Pho spent the rest of his life working primarily out of Paris where he encountered the vibrant works of Bonnard, who was a founding member of the group Les Nabis. Keen to find a unique vernacular for himself in the West, Le Pho read Bonnard’s writings and even depicted these books in some of his own works. Importantly, the fact that the artist chose to appear alongside the painting in several publications in the late 1950s – 1960s, is affirmation that the piece remained the focus of his admiration. As such Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) stands as one of the most iconic and recognizable oil paintings within Le Pho’s oeuvre.  He was part of a pioneering wave of artists that diverged from the decorative propensity of traditional crafts and helped establish a new canon of Vietnamese art. The artist’s formative training equipped him to synthesize his aesthetic into an alluring mélange of French, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences, making him highly popular both in his home country and abroad.  Indispensably linked to the artist’s commercial success, Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) marks the artist’s confidence in embracing avante-garde notions of form, texture and chromatism, while also staying true to his Vietnamese roots.

Poetically rendered with a striking palette, effused with rich sensations, Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) is a prime example of the artist’s interpretation of Bonnard’s principles of color. The sheer ecstatic beauty of the work, shows the success of his venture - embodying Bonnard’s belief that “You reason color more than you  drawing... Color has a logic as severe as form.” The vertical composition is divided into two main fields – a sky of caerulean blue and the ground that seems to rise in a sunset hue. Le Pho dispels the conventions of perspective and seems to flatten the space, transforming the overall visual effect by elevating the importance of color. Indeed the intense orange juxtaposed with a cool blue, is akin to Bonnard’s tendency to exaggerate his palette and create spatial conundrums.

A radiant depiction of a peach tree’s flowers and branches against a bold orange background, the present lot channels the essential principles of Impressionism. Le Pho captures the candid and momentary essence of nature by incorporating a light yet vivid palette, and using thick, efficient strokes of paint to render the petals of the spring blooms. A visually mesmerizing revelation of the foreign and the familiar, the painting serves as a gentle homage to Vietnamese tradition, particularly of Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New year), where the peach tree is an ornamental emblem of new beginnings that convey notions of warmth, wealth and good luck. Le Pho’s light touch and spontaneous brushwork diffuse the piece with splendour of texture and color. Flowers rendered in candied pinks and white are evocative of Monet’s waterlilies, radiating with an intensity of emotion, ultimately alluding to a sense of revitalization and nourishment.

The gentle elegance of Le Vieux Pêcher(The Old Peach Tree)  captures the spirit of the artist and embodies a high level of finesse he reached in the oil painting medium. Le Pho spent the latter part of his life in France, but remained stimulated by his love for his homeland, to which art served as his strongest tangible connection. In that vein, Le Vieux Pêcher (The Old Peach Tree) is a work of timeless beauty that offers a window into the luxuriant landscapes of Le Pho’s country, underscored by a deep sense of nostalgia for his long distance motherland.