Musée d'Orsay: Ker-Xavier Roussel Venus and Love by the Sea

Ker-Xavier Roussel
Venus and Love by the Sea

Venus and Love by the Sea
Ker-Xavier Roussel (1867-1944)
Venus and Love by the Sea
Vers 1908
Oil on canvas
H. 73; W. 86 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Vénus et l'Amour au bord de la mer [Venus and Love by the Sea]

In 1906, Roussel discovered the clear light of the south of France and transformed his palette, endowing it with a calm luminosity dominated by greens and blues. He abandoned the intimist style of the Nabis to seek out warmth and sensuality.
But Roussel retained some of the lessons of Neo-Impressionism. This influence is particularly noticeable here in the treatment of the sea, with the small parallel brush strokes placed on a darker background.

The artist found his new direction in painting mythological themes and sunlit landscapes filled with fauns and nymphs, with amorous gods and goddesses, in a timeless atmosphere of joy. The composition of this painting is unusual because of the off-centre position of the characters that leaves the majority of the space to the seascape. He establishes a subtle interplay of glances. The young woman is looking at the cherub, who is looking at the spectator, who is looking at the sea.
The landscape comprises simplified, flattened motifs reminiscent of the style of Puvis de Chavannes and the Japanese prints from which Roussel discreetly borrowed the techniques.

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