Executed in 1971, this present lot is the apotheosis of Mai Trung Thu’s creative opus. Playful and naive, Les Enfants Au Bain shows a group of children frolicking by a riverbed. The setting is serene and inviting, akin to a utopian paradise. Mai Thu generates a sense of depth and spatiality by using contrasting colors to separate the silk composition into two clear sections: shades of teal and turquoise traverse the bottom half, delineating a river of tranquility, while a blend of tan and yellow pave the ground on which the children rest. In the foreground, a girl rides a small boat, gathering waterlilies in her basket as the rower traverses amongst the boys playing and bathing in the water.
Charmingly emotive, Mai Trung Thu takes care to decorate each child’s face with expressions that tell a story; a boy casts a sly glance at the girl next to him by the shore, while she looks disapprovingly at him. These are the tales of wide-eyed innocence that the artist so perfectly constructs, as he elucidates the children’s total carefreeness by adorning their clothes with striking shades of chartreuse, aquamarine and peach. Mai Trung Thu’s detailed illustration of the children’s unadulterated mischief fabricate a narrative of romanticism and nostalgia – you can almost hear the children splashing around, chatting together in a moment of complete purity. It is with this radiant piece that the artist combines his meticulous methods of silk painting with the jovial memories of his bucolic childhood to convey his everlasting love for Vietnam. To this day, Mai Trung Thu’s romantic artistry and subsequent influence has made him a celebrated figure in Vietnamese modern art, one that perfectly embodies the qualities of the Ecole Franco-Vietnamese.
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