Félix Valloton in NY

From an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  2019/2020: 

 

Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet 

1865-1925, French born Switzerland

 

 

 

Vallotton was born in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

 

When he was 17, he left for France.  There he achieved  success at a time of experimentation in the graphic arts, literature, theater. 

He kept notes on some of his work throughout his life and left a large body of work (1600 + paintings, drawings, engravings).

His marriage in 1899 to Gabriel Rodriguez-Henriquez assured his financial standing and allowed him to stop making prints for money to focus on paintings.

 

He died in Paris at the age of 60 of cancer in 1925.

 

 

 

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Self-Portrait at 20, 1885, oil on canvas.

This painting belongs to the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, the artist’s home town ; and it is the first of his paintings to have entered a public collection.

This was the artist’s self-view three years after he had arrived at the Académie Julian in Paris.

  Loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

 

 

The Met’s exhibition did not clarify why they associated Valloton with disquiet. 

 

Other analyses of his career saw, rather, an artist with superb skills making his way

 

– woodcuts, portraits, paintings of interiors, genre paintings, depictions of women, landscapes –

 

starting from the philosophy of the Nabi, down a difficult road to experimentation in style which even today allows people to find him frustratingly inconsistent. 

His own colleagues are said to have called him the ‘foreign Nabi’ because his style was not theirs. Their styles, in the end, were quite various.

 

 

An admirer particularly of Poussin and Ingres, Valloton wanted to meld with his work the formal qualities he found in the French academic tradition  and with realism and with the values of the decorative arts. 

 

He did not want to evoke the impressions of his Impressionist near-elders. He did not want to enter into pure abstraction, either.

He wanted to nail down the ‘reality’ of a person, scene or object with a certitude which, nevertheless, acknowledged the emotional acuity and intellectual rigour of the painter.

 

In this regard, the perspectives he frequently used are nothing short of thrilling.  Following the usage of the Nabi, Valloton disregarded vanishing point perspective: a key innovation in Western art since the Renaissance.

 

In this regard also, many of his landscapes he called ‘composed landscapes’.  They were sketched in plein air, sometimes with notes. 

But they were painted in his studio in recollected memory.

 

 

 

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Moonlight, oil on canvas, 1895. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Musée d’Orsay loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020.

 

 

The artist was alive for Fauvism, Cubism,  Surrealism and the Marcel Duchamp which took painting in directions which he may well have found disquieting.

What is clear is that where there is Valloton and his colleagues, there is colour and light, complex pattern, whimsy, studiousness and humour and human interest.

 

 

And people studying their tableaux intently to recognize our world emerging  from the very great tradition of French academic painting.

 

To the extent that our world is disquieted, this masterful work begins pointing to the disquiet. 

But not only.

 

 

 

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Self-Portrait, 1897, oil on cardboard; the detail photo from the net.

Musée d’Orsay on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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The Five Painters, oil on canvas, 1902-03

From left to right, Vallotton, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Charles Cottet, and Ker-Xavier Roussell

Kunst Museum Winterthur on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

Painted some years after the Nabi disbanded and in a realistic style which was not fully theirs, it was this group of men who had a large influence on Valloton’s  development as an artist.

 

 

 

Ten years after reaching Paris, Valloton was admitted to the Nabis  (the Prophets) formed by Paul Sérusier in 1880. 

 

Their aims were to revive the painted tradition, which they viewed as overly conservative and hidebound. They wanted a refreshment of colour and line without full-blown Impressionism.  They wanted adherence to ‘reality’ (realities?).

 

Their near-contemporaneous mentors were Paul Gaugin and Paul Cézanne .  

 

Their supporting institutions were the art school, the Académie Julian which lasted 100 years until 1968 and at which the artist enrolled when he reached Paris in 1882.

 

La Revue Blanche, an avant garde magazine of art, theater and literature started by the Brothers Natanson in 1889.

 

And the print portfolio, L’Estampe Original brought out by Eric Marty from 1893-95, to which many of the Nabi contributed work. 

Félix Valloton contributed prints using the woodcuts whose artistic uses he revived.

Published from 1893 to 1895, L’Estampe Originale was among the most popular examples of this medium even if it survived only a short time.

Its prevailing social ethos was sympathy with anarchist currents, the support of Dreyfus, and disdain for political oppression, injustice and what Valloton considered the vanity of the bourgeoisie.

 

Misia (Godebska) Natanson was the wife of Thadée Natanson and the subject of several celebrated portraits by members of the Nabi. 

 

 

 

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Misia at Her Dressing Table, distemper on cardboard, 1898.

Musée  d’Orsay loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

Valloton exhibited widely with others including at the 1913 Armory Show in New York. 

 

He also made a large contribution to the revival of prints made by woodcut to artistic and not only to commercial ends.

 

 

 

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The Lie, plate 1 of Intimacies, 1897, woodcut, black on cream wove paper.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

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The Lie, oil on artist’s board, 1897.  

 Baltimore Museum of Art. 

The only one of the Intimacies which the artist painted.

 

 

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Extreme Measures, plate 6 from Intimacies, 1898, woodcut, black on cream wove paper.  Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

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The Irreparable, 10th plate of Intimacies, 1898, woodcut, black on cream wove paper.

  Art Institute of Chicago

 

Influences on the Nabi  included symbolism, mysticism, esoteric themes, the decorative and applied arts, Nouveau Art, gardens and the emotions aroused by nature; textiles; and Japanese prints which were the rage in France at the end of the 19th century. 

And women. 

Valloton’s paintings of women are said to number above 450.  These do not include portraits of family members and drawings. 

 

The last exhibition of the Nabi was in 1900.  They broke up and Valloton went on to another quarter century of  work.

 

 

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Juliette Lacour, 1886, oil on canvas.

Musée  cantonal de Lausanne on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020 

 

The artist described the subject of this painting – a hint of the industrialization of Paris in the background – to his brother in a letter of 1892:

“This poor girl began working 15 days ago from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, every day including Sundays, without the possibility of working fewer hours or of vacation. She would be fired if she asked.”

 

 

 

 

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The Coffee Service, 1887, oil on canvas. 

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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The Cook, 1892, oil on wood panel.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

 

 

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The Sick Girl, 1892, oil on canvas.

Loan from the Kunsthaus  Zurich to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

The museum notes that this painting marks the artist’s 10th year in Paris and thereafter he began more experimental modes of painting.

These are two women of the artist’s close acquaintance. The subject matter – a non-heroic interior with two women –  is an innovation for its time.

 

 

 

 

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At the Market, 1895, oil on cardboard.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020. 

The artist was said to have loved the energy and colours of the popular districts of Paris.

 

 

 

 

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Moonlight, oil on canvas, 1895. 

Musée  d’Orsay loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020.

 

A painting, presented at the second exhibition of Art Nouveau, which shows also the influence of the artist’s engraving and of Japanese prints.

 

 

 

 

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Passerby, 1897, oil on cardboard.

Part of a gift of works of the Nabi to the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, exhibited in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Street Scene in Paris, c. 1897, gouache and oil on cardboard. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection.

An image which shows the influence of popular Japanese prints

 

 

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Nude in the Red Room, 1897, oil on cardboard. 

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020.

 

The musuem’s guidance on this is that it was painted in 1899 or later from a photograph to meet the request of devoted Swiss collectors for a nude from his Nabi years.  The artist had none and used a photograph – using his camera bought in 1899 – to make this painting for them.

 

 

 

 

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Loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY  in 2017/2018 by Hahnloser/Jaeggli Foundation, Villa Flora whose photo this is.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bon Marché Department Store, 1898, oil on cardboard.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

Five O’Clock or Intimacy (Cinq heures ou Intimité), Félix Vallotton (Swiss, Lausanne 1865–1925 Paris), Distemper on cardboard

Five O’Clock, 1898, distemper on cardboard.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  Photo from its website.

The painting’s name was assigned after the artist’s death and is said to be the hour for Frenchmen to visit their mistresses before they turned in.

 

 

 

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The Visit By Lamplight, 1899-1900, oil on cardboard.

Kunst Museum Winterthur on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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The Visit, 1899, oil on cardboard.

Kunsthaus Zurich on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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The Ball, 1899, oil on cardboard.

Musée d’Orsay on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

Painted from a photograph taken by the artist from an upper story of the house of Misia and Thadée Natanson  at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, France.

 

 

 

 

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The Red Room, Etretat, 1899, oil on artist’s board.

Art Institute of Chicago loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

From a photograph taken by the artist with a camera he bought in 1899, this is a painting of the artist’s wife, Gabrielle Valloton, looking down.  The child does not appear in the original photograph.

 

 

 

 

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Dinner by Lamplight, 1899, oil on cardboard mounted on wood.  Copy from the net.

Musée d’Orsay loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

The museum notes that this is the artist’s new family in 1899. 

He married Gabrielle Henriquez Rodriquez in that year.  She had children,  one of whom, Madeline opposite, was at war with her stepfather from very young.

 

 

 

 

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Nude Seen from Behind in an Interior, 1902, oil on cardboard mounted on wood.

Loaned by Kunsthalle Bremen to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Interior with Woman in Red, 1903, oil on canvas.

Kunsthaus Zurich on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Nude Holding Her Gown, 1904, oil on canvas.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

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Model Sitting on a Divan in the Studio, 1904, oil on cardboard.

On loan from the Kunstmuseum Bern to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 20019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Gabrielle Valloton, 1905, oil on canvas.

Musée de Beaux Arts, Bordeaux, France on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

The artist’s wife

 

 

 

 

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The Theater Box, 1909, oil on canvas. 

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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The Provincial, 1909, oil on canvas.

Private Foundation on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020 

A delicious painting of pregnant emotions:  the colour of her drink all but matching that of his face.  Delicious.

 

 

 

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The Pond, 1909, oil on canvas.

Kunstmuseum Basel on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020.

 

The museum noted that this is an example of what the artist called his ‘composed landscapes’. 

This was painted in Honfleur, Normandy.

  The artist would make sketches and notes and paint in his studio. partly from memory of different views of the site.  This tended to enhance the mood.

In 1916, the artist said that he wanted to paint nature without reference to the detailed reality.  He wanted instead to recall his emotions when he was in that nature.

 

 

 

 

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Sunset, Gray-Blue  High Sea, 1911, oil on canvas.

Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Last Rays, 1911, oil on canvas.

Loan from the Musée de Beaux Arts, Quimper to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

From 1909, the artist spent summers in Honfleur on the Norman coast.  This painting shows the influence of Japanese print.

 

 

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The White and the Black, oil on canvas, 1913.  

Kunstmuseum Bern, Hahnloser/Jaeggli Foundation, Villa Flora, Winterthur on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2019/2020

 

The museum noted that this composition may be a comment on Manet’s famous Olympia even though the dynamics between the two women are different here:

tense: the white woman vulnerable and the black one insouciant to the point of hostility. 

 

Perhaps one should remember the spirit of the artist’s youth:

even if the artist’s opinion of women was of its time, he was  sympathetic to anarchists;  he was for social justice as conceived at that time; and he was concerned with the effect of long work hours on the lives of workers. 

 

Was he not going to understand the imbalance between white and black people in France?  And, a painter who had gone his own way in the matter of what and how he painted since he was in his late teens,

  would he have lacked boldness?

 

 

 

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Olympia, oil on canvas, 1863.  

Édouard Manet, 1882-1883, French.  Photo from the website of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. 

 

 

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Sunset, Villerville, 1917, oil on canvas.

Kunsthaus Zurich loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

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Apples, 1919, oil on canvas.

Kunstmuseum Winterthur loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

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Chaste Suzanne, 1922, oil on canvas (with light interference)

Loaned by a consortium to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019/2020

 

Susanna of the Old Testament has reversed roles and is the seductress holding two men in thrall in a seductively pink sofa. 

The artist’s journal notes his difficulties  and frustrations with women.

 

 

 

 

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Sandbanks on the Loire, 1923, oil on canvas.

Kunsthaus Zurich loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

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Demijohn and Box, 1925, oil on canvas.

Private loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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