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Though based in Britain from 1870, Roussel was French, and this composition shows a debt to the fashion for Oriental art that swept France in the 1860s. The nude model, Hetty Pettigrew, provides the key element in Roussel's bold pictorial design. Her diagonal placing effectively cuts the square canvas in half, creating equal areas of light and dark. Roussel uses naturalistically painted detail to decorative effect. The luminosity of the model's skin tone is echoed by the peach fabric of the kimono, and is dramatically opposed to the blackness of the setting. In the opinion of Roussel's contemporary, the painter Sir William Orpen, this was the finest nude painting of his time.

August 2004