Oil on canvas painting “The et Sympathie” by late artist Le Pho (1907-2001) has sold for US$1.36 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction house.
Offered Friday in the “Modern Evening Auction” section, the 131 x 195 centimeter work had been valued by the auction house at US$484,000-866,000.
It depicts a leisurely afternoon tea session in a pleasant garden. Four women are seated at a white table, enjoying fruits, cakes and tea, and seven other people can be seen in the background, grouped into smaller groups and some sipping tea.
While the artist usually depicts Vietnamese women in the traditional ao dai, some of the characters in this painting are in western attire.
“Not only does the depiction of Asian and Western societies testify to an assimilation, the clothing worn by the female figures are also indicative of this convergence of culture,” Sotheby’s wrote.
“The et Sympathie” by Le Pho. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s
To depict the figures basking in the dappled sunlight under tress, the artist employs a vivid color palette and intricate brushstrokes.
It was also mentioned that it is one of the artist’s largest oil-on-canvas works to hit the market.
The auction house called it “a masterpiece from the artist’s Findlay Period,” a reference to American art gallerist Wally Findlay with whom he collaborated.
Pho graduated from the Indochina College Of Fine Arts in 1930, and then studied in the French capital Paris for two years where he was inspired by impressionist masters.
His impressionist inspiration grew as he collaborated with Findlay in 1964 and focused on oil on canvas.
He has become the Vietnamese artist with the most $1-million-plus works: “The et Sympathie” was his fifth.
He was in fact the first Vietnamese artist to breach the million-dollar mark. His first work to fetch over $1 million was “Family Life” also at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2017.
Modern Evening Auction presented 37 works by 20th century artists from around the world. Chinese artist Sanyu’s “Branches” fetched the highest amount of US$11 million.
Of the Vietnamese works, Vu Cao Dam’s “Seated Lady” went for US$642,017 and Mai Trung Thu’s “Still Life Of Lilies” for US$513,627.
Pho was born in Hanoi in 1907 and moved to France in 1937 and lived there until his death.
He was a prominent artist who carved out a long and successful career, creating thousands of works.
He and Vu Cao Dam, Le Thi Luu and Mai Trung Thu are considered the four most prominent artists of the golden age of Vietnamese modern art.
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