Edouard Vuillard
French, 1868–1940
Landscape: Window overlooking the Woods
1899

Oil on canvas
96 1/8 x 149 in. (249.2 x 378.5 cm)
Inscribed at lower right: E. Vuillard 99
L. L. and A. S. Coburn, Martha E. Leverone, and Charles Norton Owen funds, and anonymous restricted gift, 1981.77. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, and Maurice Denis—members of a group of experimental artists known as the Nabis—played a significant role in the revival of decorative painting in France at the end of the 19th century. They hoped to redefine art as an arrangement of line and color that could function as the "visual equivalent" of nature without copying its actual appearance. At the same time, the Nabis wished to reassert painting’s role as an integral element in the decoration of interior living spaces.

Landscape: Window overlooking the Woods is one of a pair of canvases Vuillard painted for the wealthy Parisian banker Adam Natanson. In it, he played on the traditional description of an easel painting as a "window onto the world," composing the scene so that the bottom edge of the canvas suggests a window frame. The other three sides feature a festoon motif along the border, which was common on tapestries dating back to the middle ages. Vuillard’s muted palette further links this modern mural to tapestry traditions, while its ambitious scale (over 12 feet wide) reflects his experience with theatrical design and panoramas.

Although Vuillard simplified his forms and organized them into a series of horizontal bands, he still believed in direct observation of nature. Landscape: Window overlooking the Woods represents the area around Etang-la-Ville, a suburb of Paris where the artist often visited his sister, Marie, and her husband, the painter Ker Xavier Roussel.