18 November 2012

Bali - Le Majeur, Belgian painter

In a quiet part of Sanur, just by the beach, lies a museum that stores not only beautiful artwork but also memories of a passionate love between a Belgian painter and a Balinese dancer.

The painter, Le Mayeur, was born into a Belgian royal family in 1880. He studied under Ernest Blanc Garin and traveled across the world, including Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, India, Thailand and Tahiti, to seek inspiration for his paintings. In 1932, he arrived in Singaraja in north Bali. Enchanted by the beauty of the island, he traversed the island’s breadth to Denpasar, where he rented a house in Kelandis hamlet. It was a move that would change his life forever.

The hamlet was famous for its dance troupe and the prima donna of the troupe was none other than the beautiful Ni Nyoman Pollok, a master of the classical court dance of Legong. Pollok’s beauty mesmerized Le Mayeur who asked her to pose for his paintings. Later on, Le Mayeur asked for her heart and Pollok complied happily. They married in 1935 in a simple Balinese wedding ceremony.

The new, and very much in love, couple moved to Sanur, where, in a 32-are beachside plot, Le Mayeur constructed their home. Indonesia’s first president and avid art lover Sukarno and Indian prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were two of several great figures who visited the house and admired Le Mayeur’s works.

The painter passed away in 1958 and his grieving widow ordered his bust be made of ocean rock. Local sculptor Made Panti crafted a very convincing likeness of Le Mayeur. A marble plaque on the pedestal of the bust was inscribed with “In Loving Memory of A.J. Le Mayeur de Merpres. Born: February 9, 1880, Bruxelles, Belgium”.

Visitors can now see, next to the bust, a sculpture of Le Mayeur’s most beloved wife, Ni Pollok, who passed away in 1985. The compound now houses 88 works of Le Mayeur painted from 1921–1957. Most of them are in poor condition after years of being ravaged by the salty sea climate and humidity. The museum does not have a professional painting restoration expert on its staff nor sufficient funds to finance such an endeavor.

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