Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vuillard:A French Painter and his Jewish Patrons

Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940

May 04, 2012 - September 23, 2012

Edouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940)

Woman in a Striped Dress, from The Album, 1895

Oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 23 in. (65.7 x 58.7 cm)
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.38

The Jewish Museum in New York has a new exhibit up entitled, Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940.  Vuillard, (11 November 1868 – 21 June 1940), was a French painter and printmaker. He associated himself with others who considered themselves part of the post-Impressionist school known as the Nabis. He is not as well known as Cezanne or Bonnard, but he produced a large amount of work and there is a reason he is not as well known.

Vuillard, worked within the Nabis movement, a Hebrew word meaning prophets. The Nabis used simple colors to create highly decorative paintings. Vuillard worked well with color to create paintings of his friends and family placed within rooms filled with pattern, color, and wallpaper patterns. He also worked within experimental theatre he became acquainted with many wealthy cultural figures in Paris. It during this time his work came to the attention of was Henri Bernstein a famous playwright.

So why wasn't Vuillard as well known as Cezanne and others? As much as his connections with the rich helped him it also hurt his popularity. As Vuillard was painting for the wealthy he did not have to show in galleries or seek out places to exhibit. As a result he became cloistered within the mostly rich Jewish community that commissioned his work. 

Vuillard became interested in painting through his mother and her sewing room. She was a dressmaker and he was always surrounded by beautiful fabrics and patterns which eventually worked themselves into his paintings. Vuillard said, "I don't do portraits," "I paint people in their surroundings." He created safe rooms, that reflected the lives of his intellectually rich and monetarily rich Jewish patrons.

Vuillard also had an interest in photography. Many of his photographs were used for his paintings and became a sketchbook or a reminder to him for a pose he wanted to use on a canvas. You can watch the video below about Vuillard and how photography influenced his work and hear about the relationships he had with his models.

His rooms take on a Japanese feel that are heavy with upholstery and intricate wallpaper patterns, resulting in a cozy domestic feel. His interiors were safe for a while and are safe now but they weren't a refuge, as many of Jewish patrons would die. His world and theirs was soon destroyed by the Nazis and the war.

You can read more about the life of Edouard Vuillard and this show at NPR: Vuillard: A Parisian Painter And His Jewish Patrons

Some books in the Art Division about Edouard Vuillard 

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