Maurice Denis (1870-1943)

Sketch for The Oratorio, central panel of the decoration The Eternal Summer

Circa 1905

In 1904, Maurice Denis was commissioned to produce the decorative panels for the music room of Curt von Mutzenbecher, the director of the Imperial Theatre in Wiesbaden. The interior design of the room was undertaken by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde. This entire decoration was probably destroyed during the Second World War. Before being installed, it was presented at the third Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Dresden in 1906, and today is known through photographs from the time.

This large drawing is a sketch for the main panel of the second project, accepted by the client and the architect. The painter had previously designed a very ambitious décor on the theme of the Four Seasons. The demands of the architect reduced the project to just one subject, The new song will ring out in the eternal summer, laid out in four vertical panels and one rectangular panel, The Oratorio.

In a letter to Van de Velde, Maurice Denis explained the importance he gave to white and green. It seemed to him that these colours perfectly suited black rosewood and ebony, the types of wood chosen by the architect for the panels.
With the completion of the already familiar ensemble of the four sketches for the vertical panels assembled by the artist in a screen (private collection), we can clearly see the genesis of this décor for Muzenbecher, Maurice Denis' first great classic décor.

Charcoal, gouache on vellum mounted on canvas

H. 150; W. 157.7 cm

©ADAGP, Paris - photo RMN