Lot 73
Indonesian Art Auction | 24 November 2022
Theo Meier (1908-1982)

A portrait of a young Balinese girl (Made Pegi) with yellow flower

signed and dated 'TheoMeier / 1954' (upper right)

oil on canvas, 66x57 cm

Exhibited: -Hoorn, Westfries Museum, 'Indisch Palet, de kunst van het verzamelen', 10 February-10 June 2019.

-Bea Brommer (Ed.), Koos van Brakel, Bruce W. Carpenter, Evert J.M. Douwes, Ruud Spruit, 'The Art of Collecting, East Indies paintings', Volendam 2019, ill. no. 113, p. 130, as: 'Portrait of a young Balinese girl'.

Provenance: -Collection Colauto-van Peperstraten, the Netherlands.

'Paradise, I saw it during dances, processions and daily life…I found a culture untainted by modern life but still vital, with nothing museum-like about it … I lived with the Balinese people and lived as they did!'.

Theo Meier ( Basel 1908 - Bern 1982 ) was a Swiss painter, mainly active in Bali and Thailand. Meier's paintings capture the viewer with their rich and vivid colours, their tropical landscapes and flora and their beautiful exotic women. His works show the influences of his great idol Paul Gauguin as well as that of the German Expressionists and reflect his interest in primitive strength, the archaic and the simplicity of expression. Meier studied at Basel's art academy and, thanks to a grant from the academy, began his career as an artist. After a successful commission for a portrait, Meier received many recommendations and travelled to Berlin where he came into contact with Max Liebermann, Karl Hofer and Emil Nolde. Subsequently he lived in Dresden where he received advice from Otto Dix. Once back in Basel, Meier was commissioned to paint the portrait of the celebrated composer Igor Stravinsky which increased his reputation as a portrait painter. Aged 24, Theo Meier managed to raise funds to travel to the South Seas following in the steps of Paul Gauguin. The French painter had been a major source of inspiration to Meier, when as a young artist he had seen an exhibition in Basel in 1928. In Papeete on Tahiti, Meier however found the untouched paradise of Gauguin’s paintings radically changed by the presence of Western influences. Nevertheless Meier’s experiences as a painter were certainly decisive. 'The tropics became the experience which moulded my entire life. While I was quite disappointed that the cultures I had dreamed about no longer existed in the South Seas, I still observed the elements that Paul Gauguin employed to craft his paintings. He revealed to me the beauty of tropical nature, and this influenced me so enormously that I began looking for a place where more culture had survived, in the same kind of natural setting. That place was Bali. There I was shaped and there I became what I am today!'
In 1936 Meier arrived on Bali and settled down at a studio on Sanur Beach. Inspired by the tropical setting and the exotic life of its inhabitants, Meier started to paint and befriended other western artists on the island, including Walter Spies. Before and after the war he was visited by artists and politicians, he supported local artists and collected their work. Meier stands out as western painter being depicted in the local paintings of that time, especially in the works by his protege Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai. In 1938 Meier married a Balinese woman who introduced him to local customs and the culture of the island. Together with his friend Ernest Schlager he visited mountain villages studying the local music, dance and ceremonies and became an important contributor to the Museum of Ethnology in Basel.
Theo Meier’s most beloved topic were beautiful Balinese women. In the post-colonial era Meier eventually had to leave Bali in 1957 and went to Thailand to finally settle in Chiang Mai with his third wife. There he would continue to live and paint but would go back to Bali and Iseh on several occasions.

The present lot represents a dignified portrait of Madi Pegi, the second wife of Theo Meier. Painted in 1954, the viewer is struck by her modest gaze, which combined with the purple background and the green and yellow of the selandang and the flower gives the painting an exotic peaceful allure.

Reference: Didier Hamel, 'Theo Meier. A Swiss Artist under the Tropics', Hexart Publishing, Jakarta 2007.

€ 25.000,00
€ 35.000,00