Maurice Denis. April, 1892. Oil on canvas. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands (cat. no. 12)

April is one of a series of four paintings suggesting different times of the year—the others are July, September, and October—that Maurice Denis exhibited in 1892 under the heading "Poetic Subject: Four Panels for the Decoration of the Bedroom of a Young Girl." This heading suggests not only the association of the seasons with various stages of a young woman’s life, but also the panels’ intended decorative function within the interior. The young women picking flowers (perhaps for wedding bouquets) in April have been interpreted as symbols of a woman’s readiness to leave childhood behind and commence romantic life. Despite the fact that Denis conceived of these works as an ensemble, they were sold separately soon after being exhibited together. In April, the emphatically curved path, the snaking lines of the branches at the lower left, and the sinuous figures of the virginal young women reflect the influence of Art Nouveau, a contemporary movement that made extensive use of the whiplash curve as a decorative motif in architecture and the applied arts.

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