When Le Sidaner returned to Paris in 1894, the city was in thrall to the spirit of Symbolism, thanks to artists such as Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard. The young Le Sidaner, who had previously studied in the academic atelier of Alexandre Cabanel, began to eschew naturalism in favor of the poetic. His body of work can be seen as combining a Symbolist mood of reverie with the Post-Impressionist technique of divisionism. At the same time across the Atlantic, James McNeil Whistler was composing symphonies in white and harmonies in green and gold, arranging women rather than table settings to achieve certain desired effects of color and light. Though executed three decades after these turn-of-the-century influences, the present canvas possesses a poetic tonality that attests to Le Sidaner's earlier association with the Symbolist movement.
In 1901, the painter moved to the medieval town of Gerberoy, in the Oise region of northern France. Though he would travel extensively during the winter months, Le Sidaner made Gerberoy his permanent residence until his death in 1939. The gardens and terraces of his home and the nearby village inspired one of the artists preferred subjects of the 1920s, the sumptuously arranged table. Catherine Lévy-Lambert catalogues the various guises that this favorite theme undertook:
The exhaustive study of tables makes clear that they are in fact treated in very different manners. He represents them by day or by night, summer or winter, he moves them from one side of his garden to the other--actually or in his mind?--, he gives them different forms--round, square, etc.--, they are wooden, of stone, naked or covered with a cloth, etc. (in "L'oeuvre de Henri Le Sidaner," Henri Le Sidaner, exh. cat., Musée Marmottan, 1989, p. 31).
Le café du port (see the next lot), provides an ideal illustration of the variety with which the artist approached this theme. The cool blues and greens of that 1923 canvas represent an outdoor counterpart to the warm tones of this 1927 indoor scene. Additionally, in the same year as the present work, the artist executed related harmonies in blue, green and yellow.
The 1927 table settings possess an air of refinement, and it is obvious that great care has been taken in the selection of objects, the precise arrangement of which engenders a subtle play of formal correspondences. The bright white highlights on the red vase, for instance, echo the neighboring tea-cup's design of white polka-dots. A bouquet of fresh, pink roses vibrates against the wallpaper's similarly-hued floral pattern. Finally, a series of concentric circles--from the multiple rims of the bowl, cup and saucer, to the shape of the table itself--dictates the composition's rhythm.
The care with which these objects are laid out attests to a palpable, if invisible, human presence that lends the work an atmosphere of intimacy. Lévy-Lambert describes this sensation of someone having recently attended the now empty table: "These familiar objects supplied in the absence of people make one think that people have just left, and are nearby, or will return to lend the objects an animation that was only temporarily absent" (in ibid., p. 31).