Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer
Edouard Vuillard (France, 1868–1940)
Woman in a Green Hat, 1892
Oil on board
8 ½ x 6 7/8 in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
Japonisme, the influence of Japanese art and culture on that of France, shaped the work of numerous artists in the late nineteenth century, including Les Nabis. The woodblock prints of Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige enjoyed wide popularity among the avant-garde, and French artists borrowed the asymmetry, flat planes of color, and curvilinear patterns found in the prints. Les Nabis, like their contemporaries, looked to Japanese woodblocks for inspiration, especially Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, who shared a studio in Montmartre in the early 1890s. Woman in a Green Hat employs the formal characteristics of Japonisme in the patterning of colors and lines and in the asymmetrical balance weighted towards the left side of the composition. The painting employs the conventions of portraiture but seems less concerned with a record of the sitter’s likeness than the formal values. In this respect, Woman in a Green Hat provides visual support for the argument made in 1890 by Maurice Denis, Vuillard’s colleague in Les Nabis, who contended that “a picture… before being a war-horse, a nude woman, or some sort of anecdote… is essentially a surface covered with colors arranged in a certain order.” For Vuillard, even the unpainted sections carried visual weight and contributed to the value of the composition.