The most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the work of Edouard Vuillard, the quintessential Parisian artist whose work spans the fin-de-siecle through the 1930s, will have its world premiere in Washington at the National Gallery of Art, West Building, January 19, 2003 through April 20, 2003. It includes works that have never been on public display and many that have not been seen for decades. Edouard Vuillard will travel to Montreal, Paris, and London. The last Vuillard exhibition on this scale was a 1938 retrospective at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where it will be on view May 15 - August 24, 2003; the Réunion des musées nationaux/Musée d’Orsay, Paris, where it will be presented at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais September 23, 2003 -January 4, 2004; and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, where it will be seen January 31 - April 18, 2004.
Approximately 230 works will demonstrate the full range of Vuillard’s (1868-1940) prolific career and his embrace of unconventional media. In addition to his luminous paintings, the exhibition includes innovative folding screens, theatre programs, prints, drawings, photographs, and ceramics. A highlight of the exhibition is the reunion of The Public Gardens (1894), a series of decorative panels not seen together publicly since 1906 and dispersed at auction in 1929.
"This once-in-a lifetime exhibition demonstrating the breadth of Vuillard’s talents is the result of an unusual and sustained collaboration between four institutions, the generosity of Airbus, the indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and many wonderful lenders from around the world," said Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art.
Vuillard’s work straddles two centuries: he was a major post-impressionist in the 1890s, as well as a participant in the renewal of decorative art before and after 1900. Vuillard was one of the central figures of "Les Nabis" ("Nabi" means "prophet" in Arabic and Hebrew), a group of Parisian avant-garde artists whose members included Pierre Bonnard and Félix Vallotton, among others. During the Nabi period Vuillard produced some of his best-known work—provocative paintings of middle-class interiors and contributions to avant-garde theater.
Vuillard also worked steadily through his post-Nabi years, from 1900 until his death in 1940. He experimented increasingly with abstraction and powerful color in a manner that bears comparison with Henri Matisse and the Fauves. In the latter decades of his life he expanded his range in natural light, landscape, and portraiture.
The exhibition will be organized chronologically. Among the works in the exhibition are: the bold Octagonal Self-Portrait (1890) and the colorful abstract Lilacs (c.1890); the sumptuously-detailed Interior (Marie Leaning Over her Work) (c.1892-93), The Striped Blouse (1895), and Misia and Valloton at Villeneuve (1899), all emphasizing textile-like surroundings as well as their subjects; Vuillard’s dramatic group portrait, The Surgeons (1912-14; reworked 1925 and 1937); and his tribute to the classic beauty of Versailles during a time of war, The Chapel at the Château de Versailles (1917, 1919; reworked 1926-1928).
The exhibition will feature The Public Gardens (1894), a series of large panels considered the grandest and most complex of Vuillard’s decorative projects. Created for a private salon, The Public Gardens has appeared publicly in its entirety only once, at a Paris exhibition in 1906; the panels were dispersed at auction in 1929. Eight of the nine panels are being brought back together as part of this exhibition.
The exhibition will also break new ground with a selection of photographs by Vuillard, who enthusiastically embraced the new technology of photography in 1897. A gallery of Vuillard’s photographs of family and friends will offer a rare glimpse into his intimate circle and illuminate the ways photography informed his painting. The majority of photos in the exhibition have never been seen publicly or published.
Exhibition Curators, Catalogue, Programs and Resources
Guy Cogeval, director, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is the chief curator of the exhibition, with co-curators: Kimberly Jones, assistant curator, department of French paintings, National Gallery of Art; Laurence des Cars, curator, Musée d’Orsay, Paris; and MaryAnne Stevens, collections secretary and senior curator, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Édouard Vuillard, the exhibition catalogue, will be copublished by The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Authored by Guy Cogeval with Kimberly Jones, Laurence des Cars and MaryAnne Stevens, and with contributions by Dario Gamboni, Elizabeth Easton and Mathias Chivot, the catalogue contains five essays on aspects of the artist’s work, from his fascination with photography to the impact of country sojourns on his painting (520 pages, 463 color, 95 b/w).
Cogeval is also the author of the catalogue raisonné, Vuillard: Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, scheduled for publication in 2003.
A film, Édouard Vuillard, is being produced by the National Gallery of Art and is made possible by the HRH Foundation. The film explores Vuillard’s career, including his early designs for the theater, evocative interior scenes, and passion for photography.
The Blue Sleeve, 1893
oil on board mounted on cradled panel,
26.6 x 22.3 (10 1/2 x 8 3/4)
Collection Malcolm Wiener