Vuillard was known for intimate indoor depictions of the private lives of his subjects. As Kimberly Jones, curator of the 2003 National Gallery show on Vuillard, has said, “You can almost feel the walls closing in, and that’s very much intentional. This is the world behind closed doors, an intimate private world that we live but we don’t get to see. So we become a voyeur.”
Vuillard was born in 1868 in Cuiseaux, a tiny French town near the Swiss border. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Paris. Edouard’s father, a retired army officer, died several years later, leaving Edouard’s mother, Marie, to support the three children with only a small income. She came from a family of textile designers, and to make a living she first operated a lingerie shop and then a dressmaking business from the succession of Paris apartments that the family occupied. Surrounded by the women and fabrics that filled her workroom, Edouard lived with his mother, his greatest supporter for her entire life. In his paintings, he confined himself primarily to scenes of cozy, cluttered interiors, often using his mother and sister as models. His interior scenes are characterized by a lavish use of pattern—wallpaper, upholstery, and dress fabrics, closely juxtaposed to create an almost collage-like effect.
In 1888 Vuillard studied briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme, but soon left because he disliked the conservative approach. Later that year he moved to the Académie Julian, where he met other young artists who rejected both academic art and Impressionism. Vuillard associated with this group, known as the Nabis. By the turn of the century he was making striking, large-scale decorative wall paintings, folding screens, and portraits of prosperous French families. While Vuillard’s art remained figurative, his intense focus on the picture surface itself—the flattened, sometimes unpainted support patterned with figures that blended with their surroundings—would foreshadow elements of abstraction in the 20th century.
Museum Collections Include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Art Institute of Chicago; Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Gallery, London; numerous other international and regional museums