Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés (Belgian, 1880-1958)
Garden Leisure in the Afternoon Oil on canvas, framed Signed J. Le Mayeur 99cm x 119cm (39in x 46¾in).
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by an Indonesian collector By descent to the Indonesian collector's daughter Private collection, France Private collection, Netherlands Another private collection, Netherlands
勒邁耶 午後的花園 油彩畫布 木框
簽名：J. Le Mayeur
來源： 印尼收藏家直接購自畫家 印尼收藏家之女繼承 法國私人收藏 荷蘭私人收藏 另一荷蘭私人收藏
Born into an aristocratic family in Brussels, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés was the son of a painter. Despite a degree in civil engineering, Le Mayeur found his passion in painting and studied under Ernest Blanc-Garin (1843-1916) and his father. Le Mayeur first depicted mainly Belgian landscapes; then during World War I, he served as an army painter, also taking battlefield photographs. After the war, he sought solace in his travels to places such as Morocco, Madagascar, India and Tahiti.
Among his numerous journeys, his arrival into Bali in 1932 at age 52 proved to be pivotal. Attracted to the exuberant sunlight and unspoiled beauty of the Indonesian island as well as the Balinese way of life, including temple rituals and local dances, Le Mayeur rented a house at Banjar Kelandis, near the border of Bali's capital, Denpasar. What mesmerised Le Mayeur most was a beautiful Legong dancer 37 years his junior called Ni Wayan Pollok Tjoeglik (1917-1985) and nicknamed Ni Pollok. In 1933, a number of his paintings featuring Ni Pollok and Bali scenes were exhibited at the Singapore YMCA for the first time, which became a success. Not only were they all sold, Le Mayeur also won unanimous praise from the critics.
After the exhibition, Le Mayeur returned to Bali to create an ethereal world of beauty to facilitate his painting. He bought a piece of land at Sanur Beach and built a Balinese-style home. Surrounding it was his lush garden where he constructed small temples of white coral, dug little ponds, planted blooming bougainvillea, frangipani and hibiscus as well as placed approximately two hundred statues of Hindu gods and goddesses around. In 1935, he married Ni Pollock who continued to pose for him at this house every day, for more than 25 years. Unsurprisingly, Le Mayeur was faithful to pictorial themes of daily Balinese life in and around his house: women weavers at the loom, women dancing around the lotus pond, women picking flowers or making offerings in the garden.
The present work shows five bare-breasted women at leisure in his garden in the late afternoon. Le Mayeur focused on the two women in the foreground by means of figure size, prominent placement and clearer delineation of facial features. The large statue at the right edge leads the eye to the reclining figure. Covered by a green fabric and holding a yellow parasol, she bears the strongest resemblance to Ni Pollok. The yellow parasol, as an important decorative element, has appeared several times in Le Mayeur's other works, for example 'Balinese Weavers' and 'Ni Pollok' both sold at Christie's in Hong Kong on 30 November 2008 and 24 May 2009 respectively. As for the figure styling her hair, she could be Ni Reneng, another Legong dancer who posed for him previously. The other three female figures were most likely his kitchen maids and chambermaid as Le Mayeur once said, "I employed five house servants for Pollok. A couchman, a gardener, two kitchen maids and a chambermaid. Of course I have picked them myself and they were very beautiful girls in the first place. I didn't want them to be primarily servants. I wanted to have friends around us who took pleasure in their jobs. I forbade them to work in the late afternoon, during those hours I wanted them to sit around in their beautiful sarong..." (Drs. Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés: Painter-Traveller, Wijken Aalburg, 1995, p. 119.) Le Mayeur's familiarity with his subjects imbued the work with unpretentious spontaneity.
The Impressionist artist's approach to sunlight, foliage, naked skin and water is simple, yet effective. Deft dabs of cream and beige show figures and statues bathed in sunlight, complemented by shadows on the ground. Short, thick strokes of green and red suggest the luxuriant flora in the background, at the same time framing the scene. The extravagant showering of petals delicately dotted in red with a few fallen frangipani flowers in front of Ni Pollock and the expansive sea in the background all add to the colourful idyll.
After the artist's death, his beach house was converted into a museum called the Museum Le Mayeur, now managed by the Indonesian government. La Mayeur's other romantic depictions of Balinese life are kept at the Museum Le Mayeur as well as in private collections.