Jean Edouard Vuillard
French Post-Impressionist Painter, Founder of Intimism, Member of Les Nabis.

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The Flowered Dress (1891) (detail)

Jean-Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

A French genre-painter of the Post-Impressionism school, as well as a muralist and lithographer, Edouard Vuillard is best known for his unique and exquisite interior genre-painting, executed in a style known as Intimism (Intimisme), and his association with the artist group known as Les Nabis, both of which blossomed in the 1890s. Vuillard's intimate interiors were inspired by the 60-years he spent with his mother in a succession of apartments in Paris, watching her at work as a dress-maker. His intimiste textile or mosaic-style of Post-Impressionist painting derived from the patterns and colours of her dress-fabrics. Although his later works never exceeded the originality of his 1890s pictures, he remains one of the best genre-painters in modern art.

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Born in Cuiseaux (Saône-et-Loire) the son of a retired captain, Jean-Edouard Vuillard moved with his family to Paris at the age of 10. After winning a scholarship he trained at the French Academy of Fine Arts, where he met Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). In 1885, joined his friend Ker Xavier Roussel (1867-1944) (a painter and Vuillard's future brother in law) at the atlier-workshop of Diogene Maillart.


Not long afterwards, Vuillard and Bonnard rented a studio and together developed the Post-Impressionist Intimist style of painting, which focused on intimate domestic scenes or interiors painted in tones of exaggerated or distorted colour, in order to convey the mood, warmth and comfort of their compositions. This method of colourism contrasted strongly with the goal of Impressionism, which was to faithfully reproduce the colours of the natural world.

Les Nabis

In parallel with their development of Intimisme, Vuillard and Bonnard, along with other Post-Impressionist painters, notably Paul Serusier and Maurice Denis, formed a group known as Les Nabis. The name was first coined by the poet Henri Cazalis who compared the earnestness of the group's members with the zeal shown by the ancient prophets of Israel. This rebellious set of avant-garde artists exhibited together at the Gallery of Le Barc de Boutteville, and aimed somewhat grandiosely to transform fine arts and graphic arts in France in the final decade of the 19th century, although its artistic influence was not significant and it effectively disbanded before 1900. Vuillard himself, as well as painting, also began painting decorative murals for both private houses and public buildings (eg. Theatre des Champs-Elysees) and designed theatrical sets, and programs for the Theatre de l'Oeuvre of Lugne-Poe. He also produced a number of notable examples of poster art. In 1898, he took a trip to Venice and Florence, the first of several journeys which later included London, Milan, Spain, Brittany and Normandy.

Vuillard's Art

Vuillard's mother was a dressmaker who ran her corsetiere from home, giving her son ample scope to observe the colours, patterns, materials and shapes of her dresses. In addition to witnessing regular scenes of snug but industrious activity, he was also a regular observer (and later, photographer) of the interplay between family and friends, all of which is recorded in his Intimist paintings. In fact, the rooms he shared for so long with his mother became the set pieces of his art - lovingly recorded in intricate mosaics of dappled colour and sensitive brushwork. His trained eye and acute observation is noticeable in the numerous small decorative effects he applies to his canvas, as well as his depiction of light. His 1890s works, in particular, are among the finest ever examples of domestic interior genre-paintings. In addition to his interiors, Vuillard painted a large number of outdoor scenes, including numerous studies of Parisian public parks and gardens, as well as large wall-panel decorations for private customers.

Vuillard continued his indoor and outdoor studies almost till his death in 1940. These included a number of formal portraits as well as large-scale murals (eg. his 1939 mural for the League of Nations building in Geneva). However, he never exceeded the supreme quality of his Post-Impressionist Intimism.

After the death of his mother in 1928, Vuillard finally married and settled in La Baule, where he died in 1940, shortly after France was occupied by the Germans.

Paintings by Edouard Vuillard

An important figure in modern French painting - noted especially for his unique style of genre-pictures - his works can be seen in a number of the world's best art museums, from Russia to Brazil. Examples include:

- The Flowered Dress (1891) Museum of Art, Sao Paulo.
- In the Garden (1894-5) Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow.
- Woman Sewing Before a Garden (1895) Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
- Landscape: Window Overlooking the Woods (1899) Art Institute of Chicago.
- Vase of Flowers on a Mantelpiece (1900) National Gallery Washington DC.
- Portrait of Theodore Duret (1912) National Gallery of Art Washington DC.

See also: Best Impressionist Paintings.

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