“Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940” has opened at the New York Jewish Museum and will run through September 23.
The exhibition offers a fresh view of the French artist Edouard Vuillard’s career, from the vanguard 1890s to the urbane domesticity of the lesser-known late portraits. The presentation focuses on the inspiration provided by friends and patrons whose support became inseparable from the artist’s achievement. Featuring some fifty key artworks in various media, the exhibition extends pioneering past projects of The Jewish Museum, New York, on the significance of collectors and patrons for the development of modern art.
The youngest of three children, Edouard Vuillard was born on November 11, 1868, in the town of Cuiseaux in eastern France. After the family moved to Paris Vuillard attended the prestigious Lycée Condorcet.
In 1891 Vuillard met the three Natanson brothers, Thadée, Alfred, and Alexandre, who had founded the progressive arts magazine La Revue Blanche. Thadée was in charge of art criticism and invited Vuillard to show work in the magazine’s offices that fall—his first one-person exhibition. Over the next several years the Natansons and their circle commissioned important works from Vuillard. Thadée’s wife, Misia, became Vuillard’s particular muse and appears in numerous works of the period.
After the turn of the century, the Revue Blanche ceased publication and the Natanson milieu began to fragment. Vuillard found a new supporter in the art dealer Jos Hessel, who began representing him and many of the Nabi painters after 1900.
After the end of World War I, Vuillard was a much sought-after portraitist; portraiture became the centerpiece of his life’s work between the wars. Chief among his subjects was Lucy Hessel, whom he painted innumerable times. With the German invasion of France, Vuillard fled Paris with the Hessels. He died in La Baule, Brittany, in June 1940.