Vallotton confected his images of nude, zaftig young women from drawings and photographs. Rendered in muted colors, smooth, dry brushwork and with empty backgrounds, the paintings have a strange, moody ethereality. The voluptuous woman with the disheveled mass of red hair and the yearning, skyward gaze in “Le Printemps” (1908) could be a new Mary Magdalene, as carnal as she is spiritual.
The portraits are in some ways more compelling than the comparatively generic nudes. They look more like particular people, and they seem to have personalities that the nudes lack. The woman in “Femme brune assise de face, avec guitare” (1913) leans forward with her elbow on her knee and her chin resting in her hand, dangling a yellow book from her other hand. Staring into space from deep-set, heavily browed eyes, she seems uncannily alive and thoughtful. You’d like to ask her what she’s been reading.
"Le Printemps", 1908