Thursday, May 16, 2013

Vuillard, Jean-Edouard

Foliage-Oak Tree and Fruit Seller
distemper on canvas
193 x 283.2 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"I don't do portraits," Vuillard said. "I paint people in their surroundings."

Jean-Edouard Vuillard (1868 - 1940) was a French painter.
He was born at Cuiseaux, Saone-et-Loire, the son of a retired army officer. His mother was a corset-maker in Paris and he grew up in the highly feminized world surrounded by women at work, surrounded by patterns and fabrics and rich colors. Living with his mother until the age of sixty, he was very familiar with interior and domestic spaces, though he did not restrict his subjects to the indoors. Much of his art reflected this influence, largely decorative and often depicting very intricate patterns. Marked by a gentle humor, they are executed in the delicate range on soft, blurred colors characteristic.

In 1886 Vuillard became a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, later moving to the Academie Julian. There he met Bonnard and other painters with whom he founded the Nabis group in 1889. The group combines painting with decorative art and is inspired by literary symbolism, exoticism and orientalism. He later shared a studio with fellow Nabis Bonnard and Maurice Denis.

The name Nabis derived from the Hebrew for prophet. Unlike the Impressionists, who sought to capture the fleeting effects of light in the outdoors, the Nabis used art to communicate interior feelings and to convey emotion. According to the Nabi artists, every emotion has “a plastic, decorative equivalent” that corresponds our sense of beauty -  an idea that contrasted the dominant ideas of positivism and naturalism. The non-naturalistic Nabi colors later become a source of inspiration for many artists such as the Fauve painters, including Henri Matisse. The group, influenced by Gauguin and Degas, concentrated on pattern and distortion to emphasize psychological meanings beyond appearances in ordinary domestic subjects, though Bonnard and Vuillard returned by the end of the century to a more naturalistic style.

In 1940, a week after the Germans occupied France, Vuillard died of a heart attack in La Baule, outside Paris, in the embrace of his powerful patrons. He created more than 3,000 paintings between the late 1800s and his death in 1940.

His medium here - distemper - is composed of powdered pigments and hot-glue binder mixed with water. Distemper must be used while still warm, requiring the artist to work quickly and confidently. This difficult process yields colors that are matte and vibrant, as well as permanent. He refrained from varnishing his works, in order to preserve their dry, opaque appearance.