The muse, as personified by a dreamy and pensive female, was a favourite theme of Henri Martin. Emblems of artistic inspiration, Martin's young, meditative women were also reflections of the human urge to escape reality. The present work belongs to his symbolist canon, from a period in which he favoured the depiction of his muses in a natural setting, clothed in soft pastel shades. Its painterly execution anticipates his pointillist technique; its flat insubstantiality creates an ethereal quality appropriate to the poetic subject matter.
The present work was painted during a period of searching and experimentation for Martin. Early in his career, he had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, submitting work to the Salon and taking the traditional artist's trip to Rome. Beginning as early as 1889, Martin sought modernism through increasingly Symbolist works with his exhibition of Chacun sa Chimère at the Salon of 1891. Martin was recruited by Joséphin Peladan into the original Salon of the Rose+Croix in 1892, along with Puvis de Chavannes, Redon, Aman-Jean and Khnopff, but by the early twentieth century had departed entirely from his allegorical and mythical themes.
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