Lot 251. Mai Trung Thứ (1906-1980), Two Beauties, signed, stamped with a seal of the artist and dated 1942, ink and gouache on silk, 56.5 by 33 cm; 22 1/4 by 13 in. Estimate70,000 — 90,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Notes: Mai Thu’s art is a reflection of both splendor and elegance. Residing for most of his career in Paris, Mai Thu nonetheless retained an unassailable sense of patriotism and devotion to his birthplace Vietnam. His strong Vietnamese identity encouraged him to display his artistic talents on silk, forgoing the traditional Western medium of canvas. The present lot is painted with ink and gouache on silk, a technique culturally resonant in Asia, dating back to ancient China. Mai Thu incorporated the French Salon style with Vietnamese aesthetics to fashion a wholly unique artistic identity. Perhaps his artistic choices suggest an internal sense of nostalgia for his beloved Vietnam, for his subject matter is primarily reminiscent Vietnamese women, children and daily life.
Mai Thu gifts female subjects in his oeuvre impressive sophistication and poise, a quality faithfully reflected in Two Beauties.The painting at hand is far more than a mere reflection of feminine beauty, for it succinctly weaves together the portrayal of two culturally diverse expressions. With her hair neatly fashioned in a bun and her head gently resting on her hand, the seated maiden in blue is a reflection of traditional Vietnamese beauty, an inspiration no doubt inspired by the artist’s oriental roots. Contrastingly, her peer in white adopts a decidedly Western expression of charm, with her head arched back and her hair flowing down to her waist, which is likely attributed to Mai Thu’s time in France. Mai Thu’s genius shines through in his masterful portrayal of both women, leaving none more graceful than the other, exhibiting an understanding and acceptance of exquisiteness from vastly different mores.
The meticulous precision of Mai Thu’s brushwork is widely adulated for its delicacy, evoking a delightful sense of innocence and harmony, qualities which are furthered by the use of soft tones and pigments. The theatric deportment of his subjects coupled with his skillful attention to detail reveal his experience as a film-maker and photographer, interests which truly complemented his mastery in the fine arts.
With many of his works in private European collections, Mai Thu has left a legacy that imbues the art world with a magnificent amalgamation of Vietnamese and French charm;
Sotheby’s. Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, Hong Kong, 03 Oct 2016, 10:00 AM