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Edouard Vuillard, Madame Hessel en robe rouge lisant, 1905,
Oil on cardboard 
 


 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Paul Sérusier,
The Talisman, 1888,
Oil on wood,
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Originally titled
'Bois d'amour,' this painting served as inspiration to the Nabis, who renamed it 'The Talisman'

     

 

The aspect of Summer Reading

 

(after months away, writing)

 

 

There is a show of the paintings of Edouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940) on at the Jewish Museum at the moment that is well worth stopping by on a summer’s day for the meditative pleasures it offers.

 

Edouard Vuillard, The Reader, 1896 Distemper on canvas, Petit Palais

 

Vuillard is remembered for his early affiliation, along with Pierre Bonnard, with the artists’ group Les Nabis.  Nabi is the word for ‘prophet’ in Hebrew and Arabic and the group was particularly influenced by Gauguin’s hallucinatory use of color, as well as the decorative elements of Art Nouveau and the darkly-outlined flat surfaces of Japanese prints.

 


Edouard Vuillard, The Reader (Romain Coolus), 1897–99 Oil on cardboard,
V. Madrigal Collection, New York

 

The portraits of Vuillard are often distillations of a contemplative moment, the capturing of a mood of reverie, of reflective introspection.  All this in ornamental and patterned rooms, flatness of picture plane rendered with textured brushstrokes in stippled color.  Vuillard declared of these paintings: “I don’t paint portraits, I paint people in their surroundings.”  He was an intimist, a painter of interiors, and in many senses his work harks back to the art of Vermeer, of Chardin.  Vermeer with his paintings of women in rooms (a lacemaker absorbed in her work, a woman reading a love-letter by a window), Chardin and his still lifes of apples and bowls (everyday objects made luminous).  Things are always happening in Vuillard’s rooms, and most lovely of all is the person caught and held still in the act of reading (like some insect in amber) and there are several examples of this particular sub-genre in the show.  There is a depth of introspection in these works that is reminiscent of his contemporary Proust (they both attended the same school, Lycée Condorcet, but are documented only as meeting later) and there is something comparable to the writer’s work in the finely rendered and detailed harmony of the interiors, in the delicate and nuanced evocation of the inner life.

 

Proust was to write of Vuillard in a letter: “He says, with intensity, ‘A chap like Giotto, don’t you know, or a chap like Titian, don’t you know, knew just as much as Monet, or a chap like Raphael...,’ etc.  He says ‘chap’ once every twenty seconds.  But he is a rare fellow.”  And so here are Vuillard’s men and women with their books and papers in rooms of their own.  Proust himself was to say of the act of reading in a lovely winding sentence that loops back on itself: “There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.”

 

And Proust again, on reading: “If we read the new masterpiece . . . we are delighted to find in it those reflections of ours that we despised, joys and sorrows which we had repressed, a whole world of feeling we had scorned, and whose value the book in which we discover them suddenly teaches us.”

 

Lucy Hessel at the Seashore, c. 1904, Oil on hardboard, Hammer Museum, LA

 

And perhaps then to settling down to read all the volumes of In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past), and to all the pleasures of summer reading . . . .

 

 

Visit: Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940 at the Jewish Museum (through September 23rd)

 


Read:
In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1, Swann's Way, Marcel Proust (the great Scott Moncrieff translation reworked by Kilmartin and Enright) and on through to the other volumes . . . .

 

 

 

Tags:    art   design   language   literature   color  books   france   japan   museums   pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edouard Vuillard at the Jewish Museum (through September 23rd)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edouard Vuillard. Madame Marcel Kapferer at Home, 1916 Glue-based distemper on paper, mounted on canvas, Private collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.

 

 

 

 


Proust: manuscript page

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