Maurice Denis (1870 - 1943), 1891
oil on canvas,
40.5 cm x 32.5 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
This painting was originally much bigger. Its size made it unsalable, so Denis cut out the section showing these girls. We know what the original composition looked like. It went back to his illustration for a stage play by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949): L’Intruse (Intruder). The girls are aghast at the intrusion of Death after their mother has given birth.
The pale green faces and elongated hands contrast with the vivid floral pattern behind them. Such simplified forms and decorative areas of flat colour were typical of the work of a group of artists known as the Nabis. Denis was a leading member of it.