Édouard Vuillard

(1868 - 1940)

Jean-Édouard Vuillard was a French painter, decorative artist, and printmaker. From 1891 until 1900, Vuillard was a prominent member of the avant garde artistic group Les Nabis, creating paintings that assembled areas of pure colour. His interior scenes, influenced by Japanese prints, explored the spatial effects of flattened planes of colour, pattern, and form. As a decorative artist, Vuillard painted theatre sets, panels for interior decoration, and designed plates and stained glass. After 1900, when the Nabis broke up, Vuillard adopted a more realistic style, approaching landscapes and interiors with greater detail and vivid colors.

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Jean-Édouard Vuillard was a French painter, decorative artist, and printmaker. From 1891 until 1900, Vuillard was a prominent member of the avant garde artistic group Les Nabis, creating paintings that assembled areas of pure colour. His interior scenes, influenced by Japanese prints, explored the spatial effects of flattened planes of colour, pattern, and form. As a decorative artist, Vuillard painted theatre sets, panels for interior decoration, and designed plates and stained glass. After 1900, when the Nabis broke up, Vuillard adopted a more realistic style, approaching landscapes and interiors with greater detail and vivid colors.

Many of Vuillard’s paintings of the turn of the century are small in scale and depict apparently mundane interiors or record everyday episodes in domestic, middle-class life. These were subjects few other artists thought worthy of attention. His paintings of this type are usually referred to as ‘intimiste’.

The effects of the light became primary components of his paintings, whether they were interior scenes or the parks and streets of Paris. Vuillard gradually returned to naturalism. He held his second large personal exhibition at the Gallerie Bernheim-Jeune in November 1908, where he presented many of his new landscapes. Vuillard was praised by one anti-modernist critic for ‘his delicious protest against systematic deformations.’

After 1920, Vuillard was increasingly occupied painting portraits for wealthy and distinguished Parisians. He preferred to use the technique of ‘peinture à la colle sur toile’, or distemper technique, which allowed him to create more precise details and richer colour effects. His subjects ranged from the actor and director Sacha Guitry to the fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, Lanvin’s daughter, the Contesse Marie-Blanche de Polignac, the inventor and aviation pioneer Marcel Kapferer, and the actress Jane Renouardt. He usually presented his subjects in their studios or homes or backstage, with lavishly detailed backgrounds, wallpaper, furnishings and carpets.

In 1938, Vuillard was elected to the Académie des Beaux Arts in February, and in July, the Musée des Arts Decoratifs presented a major retrospective of his paintings. Later in the year, he traveled to Geneva to oversee the installation of his mural ‘Peace, Protector of the Arts’ at the League of Nations Building.

In 1940, Vuillard completed his last two portraits. He suffered from pulmonary difficulties and traveled to La Baule in Loire-Atlantique to restore his health, but died there on 21 June 1940.

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