An unusual construction

The focal point of the painting is to the right.

(1) The right angle of the wall is progressively blurred until it literally disappears behind the back of the chair. If we follow the edge of the wall down to the floor, we realise that it ought to go through the back leg of the chair, which is strictly impossible.

(2) The door frame and skirting board are the real construction lines on this side of the canvas. Vallotton distorted both to such an extent that the corner of the wall disappears, supplanted by the door frame and skirting board which meet in the corner of the room.

(3) By distorting the perspective of the skirting board, the painter established a vanishing line which cuts right through the top hat and arrives in the middle of the composition, on the door bolt. To ensure that the eye was drawn to the bolt, the artist used a second vanishing line, beginning inside the top of the very lop-sided picture frame above the chair and ending at the very same point on the door. The cane, leaning casually against the chair, indicates the direction of the corner of the gilt frame.

(4) This painting is therefore a carefully constructed composition in which each object occupies a fixed place - notably the door, whose opening could be neither larger nor smaller without endangering the whole balance and logic of the composition. The chair, hat and cane thus take up the lower right quarter of the canvas. The eye, drawn to the focal point of the composition (further emphasised by the intense brightness that enters through the doorway), is led to the real subject of the work: the top hat.