Musée d'Orsay: Maurice Denis Landscape with Green Trees

Maurice Denis
Landscape with Green Trees

Landscape with Green Trees or Beech Trees in Kerduel
Maurice Denis (1870 - 1943)
Landscape with Green Trees or Beech Trees in Kerduel
Oil on canvas
H. 46; W. 43 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Paysage aux arbres verts ou Les Hêtres de Kerduel [Landscape with Green Trees or Beech Trees in Kerduel]

1893 was for Maurice Denis a highly significant year both personally and professionally; his marriage took place to Marthe Meurier, whom he took on honeymoon to Perros-Guirec over the summer; during which he also fulfilled his ambitions as a Nabi and symbolist painter.

The Muses (Musée d'Orsay), The Struggle of Jacob with the Angel (coll. Joséfowitz) and The Green Trees are three paintings made in 1893 in which one finds, extremely stylised, this forest of "correspondences" dear to Baudelaire and inherited from Puvis de Chavannes (The Sacred Wood, The Art Institute of Chicago) and Gauguin (The Blue Trees, 1888, Charlottenlund, Ordrupgaard Samlingen). One may think that in these three paintings Denis, the theoretician of the Nabi group, deliberately implemented the advice Gauguin offered Schuffenecker in one of his famous letters: "Do not copy too much after nature; art is an abstraction – draw it from nature by dreaming in front of it and think more about the creation than about the result".
Saint-Germain-en-Laye forest, as in The Muses or Loctudy Wood as in Beech Trees in Kerduel (near Perros-Guirec in Britanny), nature is in both cases transposed into its "pictorial equivalent" derived from the artist's emotion and meant to cause a similar emotion to the spectator.

In The Green Trees, the landscape in Loctudy (that is also to be found in a contemporary painting, Young Girls Picking Flowers by the Sea, formerly in the collection of the symbolist poet Georges Rodenbach) is used as the setting for a dreamlike ceremony in which a young girl steps out of a procession to meet an angel from which she is separated by a short wall; this is a dramatised allegory of the Calling or of the Election in a magic forest, that of Kerduel where one must not forget the famous King Arthur would have lived. Maurice Denis, who valued this painting highly, had deposited it at the Galerie Druet on January 7, 1917 only to take it back on April 22, 1918, never to part with it again.
A summary of the artist's symbolist poetry and a perfect example of the very personal style he developed within the Nabi movement, The Green Trees has been shown in the majority of exhibitions devoted to Maurice Denis over the past thirty years.

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