Edouard Vuillard. Window overlooking the Woods, 1899. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, L. L. and A. S. Coburn Fund, Martha E. Leverone Fund, Charles Norton Owen Fund, and anonymous restricted gift (cat. no. 41)

The 12-foot-long Window overlooking the Woods is one of a pair of mural-like paintings Edouard Vuillard painted for the wealthy Parisian banker Adam Natanson. The second canvas, First Fruits, is in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena. Although he depicted a contemporary view, Vuillard may have chosen a palette and ornamental border reminiscent of 17th-century Flemish tapestries as a means of connecting his decorative vision to the tastes of his patron, who owned several such tapestries. The painting’s ambitious scale also reflects Vuillard’s experience with theatrical design and popular panoramas, which were either displayed in circular rooms or unrolled before spectators, a portion at a time.

Despite the fact that he here reduced his landscape to a series of horizontal bands and simplified shapes, Vuillard still believed in the direct observation of nature. Window overlooking the Woods represents the area around L’Etang-la-Ville, a wooded, hilly suburb of Paris where the artist often visited his sister, Marie; her husband, Ker Xavier Roussel; and their daughter, Annette.

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