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

Intérieur aux rocking-chairs

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Intérieur aux rocking-chairs
signed 'E Vuillard' (lower right)
oil on board mounted on cradled panel
26.1/8 x 21¼ in. (66.3 x 54 cm.)
Painted in 1902
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (no. 12705), by whom acquired directly from the artist in October 1902.
Paul Cassirer, Berlin, by whom acquired in February 1903.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in December 1904.
Galerie Druet, Paris, by whom acquired in October 1905.
Eugène Blot, Paris; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 10 May 1906, lot 84.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris.
Albert Pra, Paris; his sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 June 1938, lot 54.
Acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, London, 2 February 2010, lot 4.
C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard et son temps, Paris, 1946, p. 77.
C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard, Paris, 1948, p. 56.
A. Salomon & G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, vol. II, Paris, 2003, no. VIII-60 (illustrated p. 861).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Roussel, Bonnard, Vuillard, May - June 1954, no. 67.
Vevey, Musée Jenisch, Paris 1900, July - September 1954, no. 1098.
Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Vuillard, July - September 1960, no. 79.
Paris, Durand-Ruel, Edouard Vuillard, May - September 1961, no. 47 (illustrated, dated '1909').
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Vuillard. Gemälde, Pastelle, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, June - July 1964, no. 59 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Frankfurt, Kunstverein and Zurich, Kunsthaus.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Intérieur aux rocking-chairs is one of the first paintings in which Edouard Vuillard captured his greatest muse, Lucy Hessel, while reading; this would come to be one of his most favoured themes over the coming decades. Painted during the summer holidays of 1902, Intérieur aux rocking-chairs dates from only a couple of years after Vuillard had been introduced to Lucy, the wife of the manager of the Bernheim-Jeune gallery, Jos Hessel. They soon became good friends; Jos became Vuillard's dealer, and Lucy his mistress, in an arrangement that was to endure, and which would inspire some of his most important post-Nabi scenes of intimisme.

The intimiste atmosphere so associated with Vuillard is already in evidence in Intérieur aux rocking-chairs, which may date from the period in which he and Lucy became closer. Certainly, there is a keen sense of observation in the work, not least in the rocking chairs of the title. This picture relates to two others, each in museum collections, which show the same interior from different angles; the Jeu de dames in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt and another view showing three women, now in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. However, Intérieur aux rocking-chairs is the only one to show Lucy alone, viewed by the artist on her own within the sumptuous and absorbing surroundings of this distinctive room, with its rocking chairs, patterned wallpaper and carpet, elements which are common to each picture. Vuillard's focus on the room, with Lucy subsumed within it, underscores his own statement that, '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).

The room shown in Intérieur aux rocking-chairs and the Pittsburgh and Frankfurt pictures was at the villa Les Etincelles at Cricqueboeuf, where the Hessels were staying, near to the villa Les Myosotis which was being rented by Vuillard and his brother-in-law, Ker-Xavier Roussel (see A. Salomon & G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, vol. II, Paris, 2003, p. 861). With the regular patterning of the walls and the striations of the beams of the ceiling, there is a sense of decoration to the composition of Intérieur aux rocking-chairs which harks back to Vuillard's recent Nabi production. The emphasis on the decorative picture surface that had been introduced through Paul Sérusier's Le talisman, however, has here been playfully disrupted with the deliberate use of a number of angles and zig-zags in the composition. These serve to draw in the viewer, with the perspectival bunching of the beams at the top and the diagonal corner of the rug serving as arrows pointing towards Lucy Hessel, introducing a complex three-dimensionality that is in whimsical tension with the overall patterning of the picture, itself echoed in the wealth of decorative materials within the interior, for instance the carpet and the curtains. Meanwhile, the gleaming wood of the curlicues that make up the profile of the chairs hint at a figurative realism that may reflect his continued and burgeoning interest in photography. Certainly, the work is deliberately filled with a quiet spontaneity and intimacy that recalls snapshots, providing an insight into the artist's private universe.

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