Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpes (1880-1958) was a Belgium artist from Brussels who spent his early artistic career traveling the world, painting the things he had seen. In 1932, however, he landed in Bali and found a place so beautiful he could paint it for the rest of his life. He once explained, "I am an impressionist. There are three things in life that I love: beauty, sunlight, and silence. Now could you tell me where to find these in a more perfect state than in Bali?" Le Mayeur's passion for Bali, its beauty and its people can certainly be felt in his work. His broad brush strokes, use of light and color, and depiction of the female form give his paintings a pristine and mythical beauty that provides the viewer a glimpse of a forgotten world.
Le Mayeur spent his time in Bali painting in a garden paradise. After a few years and some successful exhibits, he built a house on the beach at Sanar and married his longtime model, Ni Pollok. Ni Pollock remained Le Mayeur’s muse and appeared in most of his paintings. Together they created works which showcased the beauty of the environment around them; works like Women Making Offerings at Sacred Pond (1958) depict a group of women in traditional Balinese costume, framed by blossoming flowers and littered with glittering light. The nymph- like figures dance around the frame and tend to an illustrious garden pond. Ultimately, it is Le Mayeur’s ability to create this type of mythical mirage from another time and place that make his paintings so successful and sought after. [To the right, Le Mayeur and his wife Ni Pollock; Attribution: Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)]
Le Mayeur continued to paint in Bali until his death in 1958. During the Japanese Occupation of Bali from 1942-45, Le Mayeur was on house arrest. Sequestered off in his house without access to art supplies, Le Mayeur painted on wood scraps and rice sacks in order to continue his work. After his death, Ni Polok continued to live in their house at Sanar. Upon her death and according to her husband’s wishes, the house was left to the Indonesian government and remains a National Museum in Bali. To this day, Le Mayeur’s work continues to serve as a testament to the beauty of Bali.
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Researched and Written by: Margaret Smilowitz
Edited by: Caitlin Luetger