|Biography from Sotheby's Hong Kong:|
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In the culture of Vietnam, the act of serving tea is considered an
expression of gentility and hospitality. As an old age custom that
continues to permeate virtually every aspect of life, it is practiced by
individuals spanning all social classes, from politicians and
businessmen to farmers and senior citizens. In this precious silk
painting, Vietnamese modern artist Mai Thu illustrates a charming image
of a man holding a tea cup and enjoying the company of a young lady.
Despite having lived in France for the majority of his life, Mai Thu
retained a strong sense of patriotism and devotion to the mores from his
homeland, finding delight in incorporating Vietnamese subject matter to
his art. This artist embodies a generation of progressive Vietnamese
artists that emerged during the 1930s, including Le Pho and Vu Cao Dam.
Seven years after graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts de
l'Indochine in Hanoi, Mai Thu moved to Paris where he began merging the
French Salon style with Vietnamese aesthetic traditions.
Also a film-maker and photographer, Mai Thu exposes his penchant for
these fields of art in this ambrosial yet theatrical work. Though he
seemingly depicts a simple theme within a single scene, Mai Thu imbues
an element of drama to the work through the use of body language and
composition, suggesting there is evidently far more to the narrative.
The man faces a poised lady, who twists her body towards the viewer,
demurely hides behind her open fan. While her posture is coy yet sweet,
his demeanor is more masculine and dominating. Peering behind a curtain
from a dark room in the backdrop is a young child who is eavesdropping,
signifying that this is a supposedly private ren dez vous between the
Distinguished for his pithy and precise brushwork, Mai Thu employs
thin black lines to delineate the soft curves of these stylized figures.
Delicate paintings such as the present lot, so emblematic of love and
innocence, are prevalent in his opus. Mai Thu was a prolific artist, who
found deep joy in portraying the lovely moments that he may have
remembered occurring far away in his homeland.
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