Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés (1880-1958) The Lotus Pond, c. 1950-1955
Oil on canvas in original teak frame; at the lower right signed J. Le Mayeur. 38 x 46in (96.52 x 116.84 cm)
Provenance: Yvonne Lipkin, acquired in Indonesia in the 1960s thence by descent
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 mesmerized 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 in and around a lotus pond before the house. A sixth female figure is shown kneeling and wearing a green top. As noted by Drs. Jop Ubbens and Cathinka Huizing, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprés: Painter-Traveller, Wijken Aalburg, 1995, p. 119, other than Ni Pollok, Le Mayuer was said to have also modeled his figures on five house servants for Pollok: a coachman, a gardener, two kitchen maids and a chambermaid. Le Mayeur's familiarity with his subjects imbued the work with unpretentious spontaneity. The loose and more exaggerated impressionist style of this work is likely to have come from the later stage of his career and many details appear incomplete.
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.
The present item bears a red seal stamp. It was acquired in Indonesia by the present owner's mother in the 1960s.