Published at the same time as Pierre Bonnard’s Quelques vue de la vie de Paris (see lot 44), Paysages et Intérieurs is regarded as Vuillard’s most important work as a printmaker. It embodies the Nabis credo, famously articulated by Maurice Denis, that a picture ‘before being a battle horse, a female nude or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order' (The Nabis Manifesto, 1890). The Nabis followed the example of Paul Gauguin, emphasising the primacy of colour and simplified form to evoke a purer, more subjective vision of reality. Like Gauguin, they took their formal cue from Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts, especially the works of Hiroshige, Hokusai and Harunobu.
Vuillard’s Paysages et Intérieurs reveals this oriental influence, particularly in its use of decorative pattern. Like the Ukiyo-e masters he sought to emulate, Vuillard had strong personal connections with the textile trade - his uncle was a fabric designer and his mother a dressmaker – and the family apartment was filled with all manner of sumptuous, ornamental materials. Treating his prints like swatches of cloth, Vuillard elevated the patterned effects of wallpaper, clothes and fabric, or of light and shadow, over incidental detail, refining these tableaux to their very essence. In doing so he rendered daily life as vivid compositions of colour and shape.
Vuillard is known to have paid close attention to the proofing of his prints, going to great lengths to create the subtle effect of overlapping colours combined with the use of the underlying paper tone within the picture plane. It was this which led to André Masson’s elegiac response after seeing Paysages et Intérieurs for the first time in 1944:
'I consider this set of prints by Vuillard to be, on the one hand, a remarkable monument of world art […] and, on the other, the starting point of genuine colour lithography […] Vuillard, while preserving his genius as a painter, never forgot that a lithograph is also a matter of printing and that for that very reason it should refrain from looking too much like a picture and above all that it’s support is paper and that it is up to the artist to avail himself of this white or ivory ‘ground’ as an essential colour! It is on this account that he will surely remain the great master of this means of expression’. (quoted in: Roger Passeron, Impressionist Prints, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1974)
As with the other published series published by Vollard in 1899, the album does not appear to have been systematically signed or numbered.