József Rippl-Rónai – A Park at Night (1892 – 1895)

After moving to Paris in 1888 and joining Les Nabis, a group of Post-impressionists that included Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Félix Vallotton, Hungarian painter József Rippl-Rónai’s art took a modern turn. Those years spent in Paris are known as his black period, for he painted numerous women set against dark backgrounds.

Dating from his years in France, A Park at Night is perhaps one of Rippl-Ronai’s most unsettling artworks, showing the trees of a park submerged in darkness. The only light is coming from a few dimly lit lamp posts, which in their arrangement suggest a park alley receding in the background.

Jozsef Rippl-Ronai - A Park at Night
József Rippl-Rónai – A Park at Night (1892 – 1895), pastel on paper, pasted on canvas

Despite its apparent simplicity, the landscape manages to conjure palpable apprehension and dread of the unknown, appealing to a childhood anxiety that some people never seem to overcome: the fear of darkness and its looming dangers. The trees and the grass, as if X-rayed, are glowing with a fluorescence that increases the eeriness of the landscape. And notice how the tree trunks are tilted, to destabilize our perception even more; the whole scene looks haunted and menacing. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to take a walk in that park at night.

10 thoughts on “József Rippl-Rónai – A Park at Night (1892 – 1895)

  1. This is eerie, haunting, mysterious and at the same time without any artificial affectations yet causing such fears to rise within the observer. The painter has truly captured the fear of darkness in such simple way.
    Great share, Gabriela.

    Maybe man’s only way to fight or win over nature was to destroy it piece by piece in the daylight. That is why we are often two different beings, one during the social settings of the daytime and other during solitary night times.

    Just rambled off there. Pardon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This would be interesting to explore some more, why darkness arises such deep apprehension in us. And the unknown, in general.

      I do prefer nighttime – and we talked about this before – but here you also see traces of urbanization, with the lamp posts that are unable to comfort us that much. I like your idea that we’re more vulnerable and impressionable at night, when our social masks come down.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, it sounds very intriguing. I will definitely read it if I can find it, since I don’t trust Goodreads ratings all that much.

          Like

  2. I can’t help but imagine him sitting in the dark with his easle….having a snack next to him. Is he worried about getting his throat cut? Jumping at every sound? Or is he just completely at ease enjoying the dark?

    Liked by 1 person

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