The present lot showcases the influence studying the Dutch masters had on Lee’s early works, demonstrating his masterful understanding of Western theories of perspectives. Man and Boy with Cockerel highlights the burgeoning maturity of the Lee’s signature style as he marries a profound articulation of Western technique with his favoured subject of local life in Bali.
A vignette into local Balinese mores, Lee liberally employs light and shadow bringing the man and the cockerel into centrality with the smaller subdued figure of the boy beside him. With the use of earthy colours and strong brushstrokes, Lee’s composition brings forth the cultural narrative of cockfighting as part of Balinese rituals, evoking a quiet sense of poise around the man as he carries a formidable looking cockerel. To the right of the man, the small form of the boy is moulded by the softly lit contours of his face, torso, headdress and sarong, placing him a little further in the backdrop. The play on perspectives and its resultant depth creates an almost dramatic effect that is further punctuated with the red hue of the man’s headdress, sarong and the crown of the cockerel.
Lee’s dedicated pursuit of his art form culminated in a recommendation to undertake the Malino scholarship in Holland by the Dutch Viceroy Hubertus van Mook in 1946, allowing him to spend six years of formal artistic training in Holland. In the years 1946 – 1952, Lee partook in four exhibitions in Amsterdam, The Hague and international salons in Paris, at which the Eastern flavour imbued in his work drew much acclaim as a fresh, new style. This success empowered Lee to persevere in what became his own personal view on art - mastery of form and plasticity, and an open-ness to a myriad of styles. Lee’s philosophy on art stands as the core of his work, materializing in different stages throughout his oeuvre. It underscores and gives context and insight to how Lee intuitively refined his celebrated style of a harmonious identity between the East and the West.
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