Kubrick's 2001 and Francois Boucher's "La Tendre Pastorale"

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis of Stanley Kubrick's movie "2001" (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

Though the paintings in the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite "hotel room" in 2001 remind greatly of the work of the Rococo artist Fragonard, the only one I've been able to identify thus far is either Francois Boucher's "La Tendre Pastorale" or a simulation of it. I include in the leading image to this post the 2 versions of "Tendre Pastorale" I've been able to find by Boucher. The painting to the left of the bathroom entrance in 2001 is a combination of the two versions but also has a few differences from them both. Does this mean there was a third version by Boucher, or did Kubrick instead have a painting done that combined the two versions? I don't know. Studying other paintings by Boucher, I've as yet been unable to make matches to the remaining three paintings in 2001 but they seem to be at least in the style of Boucher, a Rococo artist who was a teacher of Fragonard, was a favorite of Madame de Pompadour, did landscape scenes that decorated the King Louis XV's Versaille living quarters, and was made First Painter of the King in 1765.

If this particular painting is not an exact duplicate of another Boucher version I've yet to come across, but is instead a combination of these two images, considering also the differences between this painting and the other two, I am left to wonder if the rest of the paintings might be impossible to identify. It may be that we've been given one painting by which to make a connection with the painter, but with the differences between this painting in the film and the two Bouchers we are then invited to consider the "why" of this amalgamation, and its differences from the originals, in relationship to this seeming fabrication of a hotel room in which Bowman finds himself.

I could well be proven wrong but I wonder if the other paintings may instead be impressions, such as in Clarke's book 2001 what looks familiar sometimes only bears a resemblance on close examination or becomes something else altogether. At a distance text is observed on items but up close the print becomes illegible. Food items may have a recognizable container but what is within is alien. The room is inexact, and in some ways much like a dream. Clarke's book, arriving after the film, ultimately compares Bowman's quarters to a movie set. "His hosts had based their ideas of terrestrial living upon TV programs. His feeling that he was inside a movie set was almost entirely true."

The use of this Boucher painting is interesting to me as it seems a number of his pastorales were used as springboards for pantomime theatricals, which fits in with Kubrick's film having no dialogue for long stretches, and none at all in this section.

Also interesting to me, if we can assume that these digital orientations of Boucher's paintings are correct, is that Kubrick chose a work by Boucher in which we have a horizontal flip as a difference between the different versions. I have written extensively in my analyses on Kubrick's use of horizontal flips and how these flips appear to work in relationship to the monolith in 2001.

After the landscapes and diorama-like settings in The Dawn of Man section, and not counting the Earth landscapes used in the Star Gate sequence, with the exception of one instance we have no landscape views of Earth until in this room, and these are painted. That one exception is an easily overlooked landscape which appears when Frank is watching his birthday greeting from his parents.


In shot 257 we are shown Frank on his tanning bed. In shot 258 we see Frank's parents seated at a table with Frank's cake, all its candles lit.

Then in shots 259 and 260 we are shown Dave, asleep in bed, while we continue to hear the birthday message from Frank's parents.



After being shown Dave, we return to Frank on his tanning bed.

The viewer may assume, knowing that Dave and Frank sleep in shifts, that Dave is asleep while Frank is listening to his message. However, there is but one tanning bed, which is at the head of Dave's sleeping pod. In shot 257 (and others) we clearly see Dave's pod and that it is empty. In shots 259 and 260, when Dave is asleep in his pod, we clearly see that the tanning bed is empty, Frank isn't on it. Knowing this, one imagines Kubrick is just showing sundry events out of order, which he likely is. But the sequence is still something to take note of, for when we later see Frank asleep, Dave is clearly depicted in the same shot drawing. While Dave sleeps, Frank is out of the picture. When Frank sleeps, Dave is present.

What is in the picture when Dave sleeps, at least in shot 259, is an earth landscape in the monitor above his bed. That is the only landscape of Earth we will see between the Dawn of Man section and the paintings in the "hotel" room.

In shot 259, when we see the landscape above Dave's bed, his sleeping posture is relaxed, his hands open. In shot 260, there is no landscape above Dave's bed, and his sleeping posture is more rigid, his face tenser, his hands closed in fists. So the painting isn't even there in both shots 259 and 260, only in 259.

In the "hotel" room we see also porcelains that continue with the theme of the lovers in the paintings, bringing them into 3d. This style of painting, though showing rural figures, was concerned with courtly romance. We already know, by its appearance, that the room of the dead man in Eyes Wide Shut is intended to recall 2001, but Marion's declaration of love for Bill at the dead man's bedside could be interpreted as carrying out the courtly romance in the Boucher painting.

The Boucher painting, too, overlooks the death/resurrection bed of Dave Bowman.


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