The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

An Imaginative Display of Intimacy

Great paintings do not always depict a dynamic movement, a profound facial expression, a picturesque landscape. Sometimes, great paintings manage to display just an intimate moment, not exciting, not attractive, but painfully familiar. An intimate, private moment shows a person sleeping or waking up, being lazy or depressed, wrapped up in his/her sheets and blankets. Symbolist painters of the last decade of the 19th century were especially talented at revealing these private moments in a bedroom.

In Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), one of the most famous French post-impressionist painters, is a 54 x 70 cm oil on cardboard created in 1893. A man and a woman are lying in bed close to one another. It is not clear whether they are awake or still sleeping. The man on the right, whose face is seen better, seems to be very content. Toulouse-Lautrec had an uncanny talent for conveying intimate, bedroom, or wardrobe scenes.

The 1891 painting by Hungarian symbolist Jozsef Rippl-Ronai (1861-1927) Lady in Bed shows a woman lying with her face buried in her face and pillow. She seems more sick or depressed than just asleep. The lines are clear, simple, and the colours muted, plain, which perfectly suits the atmosphere of the art work. Ripple-Ronai was the first painter to introduce modern art movements in the Hungarian art.

The Sleeping Woman, a 1899 painting by the Swiss painter Felix Vallotton (1865-1925) also shows a lady in bed. What is different about this painting is the contrast between the colourful cushion and the black-and-white blanket. The perspective and the shadowing also stand out. The woman's face is peaceful. She looks really comfortable. Vallotton, a great portraitist, was also a member of the famous art group Les Nabis and a prominent woodcutter.

Unimaginable as a theme only a few decades before, the private and intimate life in bedroom was opened to the public view thanks to these gifted post-impressionist painters. Although a step toward demonstrating the decadence of the early 20th century, it was a memorable and significant stage in the development and innovations of modern art.

Svetozar Postic

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