Lot n° 226
180000 - 220000
Alix AYMÉ (1894-1989)
Les jeunes filles Moï, 1930
Oil on canvas
55 x 46.5 cm - 21 5/8 x 18 1/4 in.
Alix Aymé went to Laos at least three times. The first time was in 1923. A second time during the summer of 1928, to make the first studies for the decoration of the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang. A third time in July 1929, for a stay that lasted until the beginning of 1931, during which she decorated a room in the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang, and produced the majority of the works that were shown at the Colonial Exhibition. During this stay, she went as far as Muong Sing, on the borders of China and Burma.
In total, more than 60 works by Alix Aymé were shown at the Colonial Exhibition, 55 of which were in the Laos Pavilion (47 paintings and 8 pastels), the others being shown in the Salon des Beaux-Arts, which was held inside the reconstruction of the Angkor temple. Most of these are canvases, but there are also a few paintings on silk and pastels. The walls of the Laos pavilion are literally covered with her paintings. There is a very large painting of about 1.5 metres by 3 metres, representing a scene of life in Luang Prabang, in the spirit of the decoration she made for the Royal Palace, a painting that has not reappeared to this day. For the rest, it is a representation of different Laotian types, to reflect the diversity of the country’s populations, and of some landscapes.
At the end of the exhibition, 30 of Alix’s 47 canvases will be sent back to Laos, the trace of which has been lost to this day. It should be noted that none of Alix Aymé’s works were reserved for the Musée des colonies, which was being set up at the time, making it all the more precious that her family should preserve the four works presented today.
In 1929, the Revue Indochinoise Illustrée devoted an article to Alix Aymé, entitled «Madame Alix de Fautereau, Indochinese painter» and explained the atypical and remarkable career of this young female painter who had the eye of an ethnographer. After attending the Toulouse Conservatory of Music, the young Alix Hava became a student of Maurice Denis, leader of the Nabi group. She immediately worked on the décor of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, a masterpiece of new decorative art, alongside the great masters of the Parisian avant-garde, such as Bourdelle, Ker-Xavier Roussel and Edouard Vuillard. When she spends her vacations in Brittany, not far from the Gloanec inn, she is surrounded by the memory of Gauguin. In fact, she initiated herself into woodcuts. Throughout her career, she frequented the intellectual, literary and artistic circles of Paris. She became a friend of Foujita and Saint-Exupéry. It is with Maurice Denis that she remains closest and with whom she maintains a sustained correspondence. She retained a style in which color was paramount. Modern artist, Alix Hava is also a great traveler. Since her youth, she has traveled the seas and oceans, from the Mediterranean shores to Martinique. With her husband, Paul de Fautereau-Vassel, she discovered Asia and became fascinated by Far Eastern cultures. From 1921, she worked closely with the Hanoi School of Fine Arts. She was introduced to various Asian artistic techniques, including painting on silk and lacquer, and contributed with Inguimberty to the teaching of lacquer return in the school.
In 1931, when she married Georges Aymé, brother of the writer Marcel Aymé, and Lieutenant General of the Army in Indochina, Alix de Fautereau, now Alix Aymé, continued to practice her profession in this region of the world that she particularly liked. Close to the king of Luang-Prabang, she executed the mural decoration of the reception room of the H.M. Sisavang-Vong palace. Her works are at the junction of the Nabis style and traditional Vietnamese painting. More than a modern artist, Alix Aymé is an ethnographer. In 1929 and 1930, she was commissioned by the general government of Indochina to decorate the Laos section of the 1931 Paris International Colonial Exhibition.. Like the explorer Alexandra David-Néel, she ventured into regions that had remained inaccessible to Westerners until now and set out to meet the remote indigenous populations. Starting from Luang-Brabang, she travels up the Mekong River in a dugout canoe and continues her journey on horseback along mountain trails. In the manner of the great painters who made the Grand Tour, she carefully documented her travels and illustrated them. Her stories, rich in colourful and touching anecdotes, have reached us through articles published in specialized magazines. During her expeditions, Alix Aymé devoted herself to her art and executed numerous paintings, true ethnographic testimonies of these populations, almost unknown at the time. She took care to describe each detail scrupulously, thus noting costumes, objects, landscapes...
The Colonial Exhibition had been approved by the law promulgated on March 17, 1920. Initially planned for 1925, the event finally opened its doors on May 6, 1931, at the edge of the Bois de Vincennes, coinciding with the completion of line 8 of the Paris metro. The French protectorate of Laos is represented in the southern part of the Bois, in the midst of the other French territories of Indochina and the rest of the French colonies, not far from what was considered the «highlight» of this event, the replica of the Angkor Wat temple. In the Indochina section, orchestrated by Victor Tardieu with the support of the painter Le Pho, the bronze Tête d’annamite d’Evariste Jonchère and the Buste de jeune fille de Vu Cao Dam, now part of the Quai Branly Museum collections, were exhibited. The Laos section consists of a micro-village of traditional Lao buildings, where monks, artisans, singers and musicians are active. The religious buildings include a replica of Wat Xiengthong, one of the oldest temples in Luang Prabang, the former royal capital. Religious frescoes adorn the peristyle. This replica is made by the architects Charles and Gabriel Blanche under the supervision of Alix Aymé who madé many sketches of it. Inside the temple are placed Buddha figures of various sizes and worship objects made of precious materials. Right next to the temple is built a reproduction of the Wat Sisakhet Religious Library in Ventiane. Finally, behind this library is a small chapel dedicated to the monks’ meditation. In the middle of this Laos section is the proper exhibition pavilion, built in the traditional Lao style where traditional jewelry and silks are displayed. The walls are covered with the 47 paintings captured on the spot by Alix Aymé. This pictorial ensemble is remarkable not only for its artistic quality but also for its ethnographic interest. On her canvases, one can recognize traditional clothing, fabrics and accessories such as the bamboo pipes exhibited at the Colonial Exhibition and now found in national collections. If, after 1931, the French government kept a number of ethnographic objects, the works of Alix Aymé did not enter public collections. Of this incredible series of paintings, of which we have since lost track, only the four canvases presented for sale today remain. Acquired by the artist’s brother-in-law at the end of the exhibition, they have remained in the family to this day. After traveling thousands of miles from Laos in 1931 and being installed by Alix Aymé in the Laos Pavilion, they have been remarkably well preserved in France for nearly a hundred years and arrive in their original condition, barely tarnished by the effects of time. These four paintings illustrate Laos, neither dreamed nor fantasized but lived and observed. They testify to the diversity and beauty of the Laotian landscape and culture. Alix Aymé is the cultural ambassador of this country still little known at the time.
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