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Cuno Amiet

Frau im Garten, 1911
oil on canvas
98.5 x 91.0 cm
Making an ordinary gesture, perhaps one made every day, a woman leans forward, intently observing her vegetable garden. Utterly simple, the scene is transfigured by the symphony of saturated colours decking out forms that are clearly set off by a broad dark line. Their intensity transforms the subject into a radiant depiction of a summer afternoon in the calm of a garden.

The shimmering reds and oranges covering the earth and the figure’s dress lend this canvas its extravagant, glowing character, whereas the composition remains a model of restraint. The small plot dotted with plants balances the monumental volume of the woman, whose arm is prolonged by the plant beds, tracing out a median vertical line that divides the canvas. In bold combinations of cool and warm tones, dark blue shadows bring the ground and its red glow to life with fluid sinuous lines. The broad brushstrokes with their quick accompanying gesture add to the expressive power of this oil painting, constructed solely from primary and complementary colours, and practically without gradations. Amiet lays out here the symbolic unity of women and nature: thanks to the orangey hues (earthy ground and dress) and touches of green (the bush and the grain of her skin), the figure blends in with her vegetal environment in a fusion of colour.

In 1911, when Cuno Amiet painted Frau im Garten (Woman in the Garden), he is already internationally recognised and at the height of his powers. In this canvas he brings together the modernity of French painting with the lessons learned from young German Expressionism, letting his enthusiasm for colour run away with him. In the end he attains a remarkable balance through an orchestration of skilfully apportioned tints that tremble beneath the movement of the brush.
Cuno Amiet, Frau im Garten, Femme dans le jardin, 1911