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In Bed

Édouard Vuillard1891

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

This work is the most brilliant formal variation of one of the favourite themes of the Symbolist culture – sleep and loss of consciousness. In Bed is a masterly work, if only for its size which made a change from the small formats usually used by the Nabis. It is also impressive for its ambiguity, hovering between meditation and humour bordering on caricature.

Painted in broad areas of colour with an expressive sense of foreshortening, partly derived from Japanese prints, the composition is based on a network of horizontal and vertical lines which become suppler around the sleeper's face.

The calm neutral colour scheme conveys an idea of silence. It deepens only for the human face and the cross on the wall truncated by a horizontal cream band. The presence of this symbol is not surprising considering Vuillard's education by the Marist brothers and the mysticism which surrounded the beginnings of the Nabi movement.

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