- Maurice Denis
- Femmes assises en forêt, 1894
- oil on canvas
- Monogrammed MAVD and dated 94 lower left
Maître Sineau, M. Gout-Werner, Auxerre, April 7, 1991
In 1984, the date of the present painting, Denis had recently moved with his new wife Marthe Meurier to Montrouge Villa in Saint Germain-en-Laye where the painter had set up his studio. The subject of the woman in the forest refers to one of the classic themes of Nabi paintings. In these woods surrounding Saint Germain-en-Laye can be found the echo of the Breton woods in Pont-Aven and in particular the “Bois d’Amour”, the subject of the famous Talisman by Paul Sérusier and founding work of the Nabi movement.
The nude women on the left are drawn from the Symbolist world whilst the woman in a dress refers to the painter’s fascination for everyday activities which became one of his main subjects in the 1890s. It was moreover in 1894 that Marthe became pregnant which triggered the famous maternity and visitation series.
In Femmes assises en forêt, the ambiguity is deliberate: are the nude women real people or apparitions arising from the reader’s thoughts? The scene is mysterious, and the role of the silhouettes occupying the back of the woods is difficult to determine. Evidently, a symbolist dimension endures: the typically Nabi decorative elements unify the composition and contribute to the specific atmosphere of Maurice Denis’s work. A certain displaced classicism and the artist’s growing fascination with intimate subjects characterize this composition.