Edouard Vuillard. Under the Trees, 1894. Distemper on canvas. The Cleveland Museum of Art, gift of the Hanna Fund (cat. no. 33)

This panel is part of a series of nine paintings, known collectively as Public Gardens, commissioned by the director of the literary journal La Revue blanche, Alexandre Natanson, whose family was a principal source of commissions in the early years of Edouard Vuillard’s career. Destined to harmonize with the décor of Natanson’s elegant Paris mansion, Under the Trees and its companion panels (including First Steps, also in the exhibition) exhibit a formal, muted style. The lighthearted theme of contemporary women and children in a public park (in this case, the Jardin des Tuileries) can be traced to decorative interior panels of the 18th-century Rococo period. The focus on children may have also been inspired by Natanson’s three young daughters, who would have found such subject matter appealing.

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