Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer was one of the leading figures of both the Symbolist and Art Nouveau movements around the turn of the century. Throughout his long career, Lévy-Dhurmer constantly experimented with different artistic techniques, moving effortlessly between them in a way few artists achieve. He was at once a ceramicist, painter, pastelist, and designer of furniture and interiors, proving himself to be a true ensemblier. His famous Wisteria Dining Room, completed ten years before the present work and now preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a brilliant example of the artist’s skill at designing a complete and harmonious environment by bringing together the many different media in which he could work.
Though primarily a solitary artist, Lévy-Dhurmer found commonality with the artists, writers, and musicians of the Symbolist movement, which formed to provide an intellectual alternative to the purely visual painting of the Impressionists. The Symbolists chose subject matter which would suggest complex emotional and spiritual ideas rather than compositions that could be immediately understood. After 1900, Lévy-Dhurmer’s art explores the emotional and lyrical possibilities of landscape and atmosphere. The present painting, part of a series of paintings, drawings, and pastels that Lévy-Dhurmer undertook of Versailles and its environs beginning in the early 1920s, shows the artist experimenting with his ability to create the ethereal, velvety texture and subtle tonal contrasts of pastel through the use of oil paint. Here, through playing with the ever-changing, shimmering appearance of light on the fountain and by subverting expected compositional structure to create an image that is defined by the ephemeral nature of moving water, the artist creates an almost abstract, dream-like depiction of Le Bassin d'Apollon.