This catalogue raisonné of the paintings and pastels of Édouard Vuillard provides an opportunity to look more carefully at the art of this French master.Read more
Hundreds of photographs taken by Vuillard himself, together with an unprecedented collection of preparatory drawings and sketches arranged in relation to his journal focus more closely on the artist's creative process than has any previous study.
The art of Édouard Vuillard (18681940) spans two centuries: a leading protagonist of Post-Impressionism, like Gauguin and Seurat, he also took part in the renewal of the decorative arts after 1900 and, later, in the "call to order" after the First World War.
From a modest background his mother was a corset-maker Vuillard turned quite early to painting with the encouragement of his family and friends. At the renowned Lycée Condorcet, where Bergson and Mallarmé were then teaching, he met the fellow students who would mark his life. The future painter Kerr-Xavier Roussel along with Aurélien Lugné-Poe, soon to be a theatre producer, introduced him to the Nabi group, probably in early 1889.
Vuillard's style exemplifies a fertile paradox. A lover of art museums, he studied Chardin's still lifes and Dutch interiors, and held French seventeenth-century painting Le Sueur especially in high esteem. At the same time, however, influenced by the Synthetism advocated by his Nabi friends Paul Ranson, Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard, he painted a number of challenging compositions in which a few lines enclose symbolic figures depicted in harsh colours.
Vuillard was attracted by the glamour of the stage and created many sets for experimental plays. This experience in the theatre had a direct effect on his painting. Between 1892 and 1895, he worked on the subjects for which he would later be famous: lower-middle-class interiors in which his mother, sister and the seamstresses of the corset workshop are busy performing their unvarying domestic tasks, surrounded by mottled wallpaper. Vuillard imbued these everyday scenes with a sense of fatality, played out in a heavy disquieting atmosphere that owed much to his sophisticated literary taste.
He made his private experiences into a subject for his painting.
The First World War marked a break: for a time Vuillard served as an official war artist, bearing witness to a reality that had become tragic.
Although the last twenty years of Vuillard's life represent the apotheosis of his career, they earned him a sort of ostracism after 1945. Until recently, critics were wont to praise his astounding Nabi paintings but turned their backs on his portraits of industrialists, bankers and actresses who had become Vuillard's favourite clients just as they looked down their noses at the antiquated splendour of his decors for the Trocadero and the League of Nations, both government commissions.
Antoine Salomon is the son of Jacques, a direct descendant of the Vuillard-Roussel family, who began work on a catalogue raisonné of Édouard Vuillard upon the artist's death. Throughout his life he has assembled a unique body of documentation (photographs, preparatory drawings, autobiographical notes, bibliographical sources) on the art and the creative life of the painter. His documentation has made this work possible.
Guy Cogeval, the author of this book, has been Director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 1998. A former student at the Sorbonne, member of the Académie de France in Rome, professor at the École du Louvre, Conservateur en chef du patrimoine, Director of the Musée des Monuments français from 1992 to 1998, he has curated the exhibitions Debussy et le Symbolisme (Rome, 1984); Vuillard (Lyons, Barcelona, Nantes, 1990); Maurice Denis (Lyons, Cologne, Liverpool, Amsterdam, 1994); Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe
(Montreal, 1995), The Time of the Nabis (Florence and Montreal, 1998); and more recently, Hitchcock and Art (Paris, Montreal, 2001). Cogeval is chief curator of the major retrospective Vuillard (Washington, Montreal, Paris, London, 2003-04).