japonisme: some, however, do it beautifully

14 February 2007

some, however, do it beautifully

Maurice Denis
October Night
[panel for the decoration of a girl's room]

Painted in 1891, October Night dates from a key period in Denis' career when he began to adopt a more synthetic approach. He belonged to the young Nabis group who, as Jean Verkade testified, were concerned primarily with decorative painting: "a war cry circulated from studio to studio: no more easel paintings […] only decorations remain".

In 1892, this piece was exhibited at the 8th Salon des Indépendants, together with three other paintings – September Night, April and July – to make up a series entitled Poetic Subjects (four panels for the decoration of a girl's room). Although the series did not include Winter, it was often interpreted as a Seasons cycle, a theme already taken up by Poussin, Boucher, Cézanne and others, and which Vuillard would go on to tackle in 1892. The series could also be considered as the symbolic representation of four moments in a woman's life, October Night being that of engagement, the young woman in pink probably representing the Denis' betrothed, Marthe Meurier, accompanied by her sister, Eva. This decidedly symbolist scene could, then, be a token for the young artist's fiancée through which he expressed his feelings for her.

The palette of pearly and rich bronze tones, treated in gradations, creates a delicate colour field which contributes to the overall feeling of serenity. With his subtle play on the arabesques of the female silhouettes and the Japanese-inspired network of veins on the bark of the chestnut trees, Maurice Denis shows himself here to be one of the originators of Art Nouveau.*

as do they



Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Good-evening, Lotus. I stopped by to wander more deeply into your space and found more treasure troves.

15 February, 2007 22:40  
Blogger Imani said...

I never knew that many of my favourite artists were influenced by Japanese art until you featured them here. I'm a particular fan of Denis.

17 February, 2007 15:35  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you princess. :^)

imani--that's great to hear. i am constantly reading articles about them or bits of books, and rarely does it get mentioned, though they all thought so themselves!

interesting, eh? i wonder why.

17 February, 2007 18:16  
Blogger Imani said...

It's very strange, and I found it a particularly startling absence when you did those posts on Alphonse Mucha. I think I've read a decent amount on him and it was never pointed out until I read of it here; then it became obvious when you placed his work beside certain Japanese pieces and I felt like a silly nit for not seeing it before.

19 February, 2007 10:49  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i'll tell you--i was sceptical when i first heard about it, but now i realize that it's far from just present-day critics suggesting it, it's what they were saying themselves. so i totally get what you mean!

19 February, 2007 16:57  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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