Ker Xavier Roussel. The Seasons of Life (first version), 1892/93. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (cat. no. 26)

This horizontal canvas depicting four female figures in a frieze-like procession corresponds in style and content to contemporary works by Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis. The ambiguous female figures, women of different ages symbolizing the seasons of life, are dressed in quasi-medieval costumes, removing them from the present day. Ker Xavier Roussel's treatment of them emphasizes the flat, decorative surface of the canvas rather than volume and space. It is unclear whether or not this was a commissioned work; it may simply have been an experiment. In another canvas with the same title and similar subject, Roussel explored personal symbolism and evocative imagery in a format suited for the decoration of walls in either a public or private space.

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