Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
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Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

Lucie Belin dans l'atelier

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Lucie Belin dans l'atelier
signed 'E Vuillard' (lower right)
pastel on paper
27 3/8 x 24¾ in. (69.8 x 62.8 cm.)
Executed in 1915
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (no. 20511), by whom acquired directly from the artist on 1 December 1915.
Gaston or Josse Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired on 21 January 1916.
Private collection, France; sale, Christie's, New York, 6 November 2002, lot 18.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Salomon & G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, vol. III, Paris, 2003, no. X-57, p. 1208 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Vuillard, May 1953, no. 3 (titled 'L'atelier' and dated '1903').
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Coup de chapeau à Vuillard et Roussel, June 1969.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Vuillard, January - March 1973, no. 32 (dated '1905').
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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Lucie Belin dans l'atelier is an important pastel dating from 1915, when Edouard Vuillard was engaged in one of the most passionate affairs of his life - one which was reflected in a series of pictures of his lover, Lucie Belin, who also went by the surname 'Ralph'. Originally, this picture was thought to show Lucy Hessel, the wife of Vuillard's dealer Jos, a member of the Bernheim-Jeune family. Lucy became Vuillard's long-term muse and lover, with whom he had an enduring relationship that lasted until his death. That relationship was immortalised in a vast number of pictures showing Lucy in various contexts, not least the artist's own studio. However, while the First World War is thought to have had little effect on Vuillard's work (aside from in his later role as a war artist) an indirect result of the conflict was Lucy's absence, as she tended to soldiers who had been blinded. Lucie Belin entered this temporary and occasional vacuum, a whirlwind of vitality and passion, as is attested to in her letters to the artist (see in particular A. Salomon & G. Cogeval, Vuillard: Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, vol. III, Paris, 2003, p. 1202).

Vuillard once said, 'I don't paint portraits, I paint people in their homes' (Vuillard, quoted in G. Cogeval, ed., Édouard Vuillard, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 2003, p. 356). While Lucie Belin dans l'atelier shows his subject within his own studio, the atmosphere is the same: she appears to be a part of her surroundings, perhaps defined by them. In this picture, she is shown at the back of the room, as though from a distance, sitting and reading; the walls, filled with pictures, result in an vibrant loose mosaic of colour, each rectangle adding more to the composition. In this way, the focus on the painterly surface and decorative structure of the picture that had developed during Vuillard's involvement with the Nabis is clear. Likewise, there is an absorbing intimisme, a characteristic that remained in Vuillard's interiors throughout his life. The sense of privacy, and even of autobiography, in Lucie Belin dans l'atelier is accentuated by the presence of Vuillard's own works on the walls. On the right, visible hanging above the rack for the drawings, is Child in a Blue Bonnet of 1912 (S & C VIII-401), a painting of 1912 was also shown behind Lucie Belin in a portrait showing her smiling.

Belin was an aspiring actress. She was a force of life, and this was reflected in the warm pictures that Vuillard created of her, as well as in some of his best photographs, capturing the relaxed, often smiling lover. Her career, despite Vuillard's efforts, never launched in the way she had hoped, and later her health declined. While Belin's relationship with Vuillard ceased, he remained in contact with her into the 1920s, when she was ill, and appears also to have provided her discreetly with a small pension until her death (see ibid., p. 1177). Lucie Belin dans l'atelier thus provides an insight into the brief window of this affair, which was clearly so important to the artist.

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