Eduard Vuillard was a superb painter with a unique point of view of the world. His focus was on a world of domestic tranquillity, which in this time of upheaval, lockdowns and self-isolation is a welcome antidote. To view his painting is to make contact with peace and comfort.
A great deal changed in Vuillard’s techniques from his early days to his last ones- colour details, the amount of light in his paintings – however, his focus was remarkably consistent. What interested him was the life of the home and the people in it, or out of it. He did many landscapes, but they are somehow domestic in feeling; his forests resonate that lived-in feeling. He was a gifted portrait artist (his portraits include several of his fellow artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, seen pouring a drink for himself in 1898). Still, they, too, have that close, warm feeling, as if made from very personal knowledge.
The fact that they are peaceful does not make the paintings any less enjoyable. The very early “In Bed” (1891), for instance, a study of a sleeper in a bed with part of a brown face showing, is organised in blocky areas of greyish colour, with a simple, sweeping line, that might be taken as looking forward to the Art Nouveau of later decades. Regardless, the subject is typical. His scene was established early – his wife by a window; the view across a yard as someone opens the gate on the far side; a woman was giving soup to a child; a stunning blue painting of a mother getting a child ready for bed.
In the background of some of these can be seen another characteristic, a lively interest in detail which other painters might subdue. Vuillard’s view of domesticity is acutely conscious of the patterns of wallpaper or the flowers on the covering of a chair.
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One of his crowning glories of this style is an early, tremendous triptych of large paintings called “Public Gardens.” They look across the years to an even more marvellous oil painting completed in the 1920s, “Garden at Vaucresson.”
Vuillard’s art reveals an artist of keen sensibility, little concerned with the literary aspects of painting. They focus instead upon the vehicle of pictorial harmony. For Vuillard, his home was the centre of his artistic heart.