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Vuillard paintings – Intimate, Bold & Expressive

Edouard Vuillard’s paintings are characterized by bold and vivid colors, thick outlines &, distorted and flattened perspectives. Art historians consider him as one of the most important pre World War II French artists. He worked as a painter, print-maker, created theater sets and also experimented with photography. Interestingly, he is far less famous than many of his contemporaries of his time.

Edouard Vuillard was also one of the founding members of the Post-Impressionism movement, Les Nabis, together with Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis & others.  

Edouard Vuillard Paintings - Self Portrait
Edouard Vuillard Paintings – Self Portrait

Vuillard Biography – His Early Years

Edouard Vuillard was born in Cuiseaux (Saône-et-Loire) in 1868. However, the family moved to Paris when Edouard was 10 years old. Paris was the artistic capital of the world. Edouard frequently visited the Louvre and decided to become an artist. This was a disappointing to his father who expected his son to follow his footsteps in a military career.

Talent was evident at an early age. Vuillard wins a scholarship & studies painting at the Julian Academy and then the École des Beaux Arts . During this period he meets Pierre Bonnard and other emerging artists.

Vuillard & Bonnard’s Artistic Partnership

Vuillard and Bonnard, firm friends, rent a painting studio together. They share ideas and develop a new post-impressionism style of painting called Intimism. The young artists focus on painting interiors and intimate domestic scenes.

The painter Paul Gauguin and his expressive use of unnatural color and form influences Vuillard & Bonnard. Like Gauguin, they focus on expression of emotion rather than just painting what they see. This was a huge break away from the concept of Impressionism, that used natural colours, faithfully representing the observed subject.

Edouard Vuillard Paintings - After Breakfast
Edouard Vuillard Paintings – After Breakfast [Public Domain]

Vuillard & the Les Nabis Art Movement

At the same time that Vuillard and Bonnard are exploring Intimism, the two join forces with the post-Impressionist painters, Paul Serusier & Maurice Denis, The four young artists enthusiastically form an artistic group. They used by bold colors, simplified drawings and a flattened perspective. In addition to Gauguin’s influence, they draw ideas from the bold compositional arrangement and the use of flat, unshaded areas of color of the 19th century Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock printing.

The poet Henri Cazalis observes the intense enthusiasm of these young avant-garde artists. He compares their zeal to the the ancient prophets of Israel. The term Nabis comes from the Hebrew word “Prophet”. The name stuck!

The Les Nabis painters exhibited together only once. They had grand plans to transform art in France. However, their movement had little influence and they disbanded after two short years. But Vuillard painted some of his most famous paintings during the Les Nabis period.

Vuillard Still Life Paintings
Vuillard Still Life Painting [Public Domain]

Edouard Vuillard & His Jewish Patrons

Vuillard’s painting career flourished in the 1890s. He was commissioned to design theater sets and to contribute paintings for cultural & literary publications. His first major art patron was Thadee Natanson, the son of a Jewish banker. Through him, he met many other Jewish writers, art dealers, and businessmen. They and their family members commissioned him to portraits. In his usual style, he painted these portraits in domestic settings.

Vuillard had a romantic relationship with both Misia Natanson and Lucy Hessel, the wives of Thadee and Jos Hessel, his art dealer and good friend. Vuillard portrayed these women quite a few times in both his interiors and landscape paintings. In fact, Lucy modeled for Vuillard for nearly 40 years, and until his death in 1940.

Lucy Hessel at the Sea Shore - Vuillard Painting
Lucy Hessel at the Sea Shore – Vuillard Painting [Public Domain]

In addition to portraits, some of his patrons commissioned Vuillard to make decorative murals for their family homes. These large scale murals are today considered some of his most important artworks.

Edouard Vuillard Paintings of His Mother

Edouard lived together with his mother, his greatest supporter, for her entire life. Vuillard’s mother was a dressmaker who ran a business from her home. Vuillard never seemed to tire of painting her industrious activity. Lovingly he painted women at work with colorful fabrics.

The Seamstress / Edouard Vuillard Paintings of his mother working
The Seamstress / Edouard Vuillard Paintings of his mother working [Public Domain]

Edouard Vuillard suffered from heart problems and traveled to La Baule in Normandy to restore his health. He died there on 21 June 1940 and in the same month that the Germans defeated the French army. His calm and content domestic world that he lovingly painted with such beautiful bold colors, was soon to be shattered to smithereens.

The Best Art Museums in Paris to View Edouard Vuillard Paintings

  • Musee D’Orsay displays a large collection of Vuillard Paintings and drawings.
  • The Musée d’Art Moderne showcases 8 Vuillard artworks. For more information about hours, tickets and current exhibitions, press here.
  • The impressive Centre Pompidou owns the second largest collection of modern and contemporary art in the world. In this museum you will find a great collection of Vuillard artworks (paintings and drawings).

Art Museums in Southern France with an Excellent Bonnard Collection

Musee Bonnard – Le Cannet

The Bonnard Art Museum hosts a great collection of paintings of other post-impressionism artists such as Vuillard, Denis, Matisse & Signac.

For more information regarding current exhibitions, ticket prices and museum hours, press here 

Musee Annonciade – Saint Tropez

This lovely museum in Saint Tropez has a wonderful collection of post-impressionism painters. Here you will find three lovely Vuillard paintings as well as Matisse, Derain, Bonnard, Braque, Seurat and so many more. For more information, press here.

Musee Fondation Bemberg – Toulouse

The Fondation Bemberg art museum is housed in a 16th century historical mansion in Toulouse. The building itself is worth visiting ! The Bemberg impressionism and post-impressionism collection is fantastic. Here you will see paintings of Vuillard, MonetBonnard, MorisotCaillebotte & many others. For more information, press here.

Madame Hessel - Edouard Vuillard Paintings
Madame Hessel – Edouard Vuillard Paintings [Public Domain]