The sick one, Valloton

The sick one, Valloton
The sick one, Valloton

At the end of the 19th century, the French art scene had become an orphan; the post-impressionist trend that had been in force until then seemed to have exhausted even the last pictorial resources and the artistic avant-gardes were not yet sufficiently consolidated to take over the pictorial tradition of France. In this context, a new movement emerged whose bases were based on the colorist supremacy of Gauguin's paintings, the nabis.


The Nabis are a group of painters from the late nineteenth century who developed their art mainly in France and for whom color was the basis of pictorial composition; Perhaps the best-known representative of this group for the general public is the artist Pierre Bonard, but if Bonard is known for something, it is not precisely for his Nabi paintings, but for his latest works that are closer to symbolism.

On this occasion we analyze the work of another nabi, the painterFélix Vallottonof Swiss origin, but who developed most of his profession in France. In 1892 the artist presented what would become his best-known work, The Sick Woman, an oil on canvas in a horizontal format that is now in a private collection. The piece features one of the artist's best-known muses, Parisian Helene Chatenay, whom the artist met in a Parisian café together with her friend, fellow painter Charles Maurin.

The piece shows us an intimate and interior scene in which the model rests ill on a bed that, strangely, has its back to the viewer; the position of the bed makes no sense in the composition of the work but the fact of denying us the face of the model creates an atmosphere of mysticism and intrigue. On the other hand, this image of the model openly contradicts that of the maid who enters the room to make sure that the patient is well and to bring her a hot drink. The maid, oblivious to the patient resting in bed, looks directly at the viewer, as if wanting to involve him in the plot, a plot more typical of theater than of painting.

On this occasion, Vallotton has left aside his interest in color by using a cold range in accordance with the theme of the work. Special attention deserves the detail with which the painter has recreated the room: the detail of the still life that rests next to the patient's bed with a cart, the watermarks of the paper that decorates the walls, etc.

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