Chernowitz recognizes Proust’s frequent use of paintings in his metaphors.
We must remember that Proust is opposed to merely “describing” objects: it is his “impressions” he wished to convey, since for him an abstract thought is less valuable, less profound than a truth or an image derived from one’s impressions. Is there a better syntactical formula than the simile to express the component parts of an impression, that is, the relation of sensations and memories, or, as Proust defines reality, “un certain rapport entre ces sensations et ces souvenirs qui nous entourent simultanément”? Proust’s search for his impressions and their recapture in literary imagery will therefore proceed by juxtaposing in an analogical relation the sensations of the present with the memories of the past. Thanks to comparison, these elements from different periods of time are harmonized in the sentence almost simultaneously, just like notes in a broken chord.
“…and the life of Odette at all other times, since he knew nothing of it, appeared to him upon a neutral and colorless background, like those sheets of sketches by Watteau upon which one sees, here and there, in every corner and in all directions, traced in three colors and upon the buff paper, innumerable smiles.” (130)