Published: April 17, 2012
The art of Edouard Vuillard (1868‱940) †a painter who began his career as a member of the Nabi group of avant-garde artists in Paris in the 1890s †will be celebrated at The Jewish Museum in the first major solo, New York exhibition of the French artist’s work in more than 20 years. “Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890‱940” will include more than 50 paintings, as well as a selection of prints, photographs and documents exploring the crucial role played by the patrons, dealers and muses who comprised Vuillard’s circle.
On view May 4⁓eptember 23, the exhibition will examine the prominence of key players in the cultural milieu of modern Paris, many of them Jewish, and their influence on Vuillard’s professional and private life. The exhibition explores Vuillard’s continuing significance from the turn of the Twentieth Century to the onset of World War II. “Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses” brings together works from public and private collections in the United States and Europe. A quarter of the paintings have never been exhibited publicly in America before.
Vuillard’s career spans 50 years, from the fin-de-siècle to the German occupation of France. During his lifetime, Paris was the capital of the international avant-garde, the laboratory of new styles in art, music, poetry and prose. Vuillard was at the heart of this creative ferment. In these decades, the work of vanguard artists was supported by collectors, gallerists, publishers and theater impresarios who encouraged modernist cultural experiments.
Vuillard had unusually close and sustained relationships with his patrons; some became intimate and lifelong friends. In this glittering cultural milieu he became romantically involved with two fascinating women, Misia Natanson and Lucy Hessel, each of whom served as both patron and muse.
The exhibition traces the entire arc of Vuillard’s career, in which he pursued painterly experimentation in color, media and ambience, especially in portraiture. It presents a selection from all stages of Vuillard’s long creative activity and is divided into the various phases of the artist’s career.
He established his signature themes †interiors and the depiction of modern life †in the 1890s. As his style evolved, he continued to use pattern, texture and the framing device of windows, doors and mirrors, while extending his repertoire to the genres of landscape, still life and especially portraiture.
Vuillard’s late portraits are a revelation †among the great examples in the Twentieth Century and of dazzling virtuosity. Experimental, yet deeply committed to the Old Masters throughout his life, Vuillard maintained a continual tension in his work between tradition and modernism.
After 1900 Vuillard joined the Bernheim-Jeune gallery, one of the most prestigious venues for modern art in Paris, and began to expand his clientele. The gallery was managed by Jos Hessel and his cousins Gaston and Josse Bernheim. Hessel arranged the first group exhibition of the Nabis (a group of artists) there in April 1900. He was to remain Vuillard’s principal dealer and close friend for the next 40 years.
“Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890‱940” was organized by Stephen Brown, assistant curator, The Jewish Museum, in consultation with Norman Kleeblatt, Susan and Elihu Rose chief curator.
In conjunction with the exhibition, The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press are co-publishing Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890‱940 by Stephen Brown with an essay by Richard R. Brettell. The 144-page catalog will be available worldwide and at The Jewish Museum’s Cooper Shop for $45.
The Jewish Museum is at 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street. For information, 212-423-3200 or www.thejewishmuseum.org .
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