Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Property from the Collection of Frederick A. and Sharon L. Klingenstein
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

La table de toilette

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
La table de toilette
signed 'E. Vuillard' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 45 ¼ in. (65.6 x 115 cm.)
Painted in 1895
Thadée and Misia Natanson, Paris (commissioned from the artist); sale, Maître H. Baudoin, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 13 June 1908, lot 53.
Jos Hessel, Paris (acquired at the above sale and until at least 1941).
C.M. de Hauke & Co., Inc., New York.
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Christie's, New York, 14 November 1989, lot 55.
Private collection, Japan (acquired at the above sale).
Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 22 November 1996.
E. Couturier, "Galerie S. Bing: Le mobilier" in La Revue Blanche, 15 January 1896, vol. 10, no. 63, p. 93.
J. Daurelle, "Curiosités" in Mercure de France, 1 July 1908, p. 188.
A. Segard, Peintres d'aujourd'hui: Les décorateurs, Paris, 1914, p. 320.
T. Bernard, "Jos Hessel" in La Renaissance, January 1930, p. 25 (illustrated; titled Dans les fleurs).
R. Huyghé and M. Faré, "L'ésprit du XIXe siècle" in Promethée, May 1939, no. 4, p. 52 (illustrated; titled Madame J.A. Fontaine and with incorrect provenance).
J. Salomon, Vuillard, Paris, 1945, p. 47.
A. Chastel, Vuillard, Paris, 1946, p. 24 (illustrated; titled Conversation).
C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard: His Life and Work, London, 1946, pp. 53 and 54 (illustrated, p. 133; titled Dans les fleurs).
C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard, Paris, 1948, p. 25, no. 4 (illustrated, p. 30; titled Dans les fleurs).
C. Schweicher, Die Bildraumgestaltung, dar Dekorative und das Ornamentale im Werke von Edouard Vuillard, Zürich, 1949, pp. 77-79, 82, and 88.
F. Hermann, Die 'Revue Blanche' und die Nabis, Munich, 1959, vol. I, p. 219, vol. II, p. 431 (titled Dans les fleurs).
R. Bacou, "Décors d'appartements au temps des Nabis" in Art de France: Etudes et chroniques sur l'art ancien et moderne, 1964, p. 196, note 28.
J. Dugdale, "Vuillard the Decorator, I. First Phase: The 1890s" in Apollo, February 1965, vol. LXXXI, no. 36, p. 97.
C. Roger-Marx, Vuillard Interieurs, Lausanne, 1968, pp. 32 and 34 (titled Dance of the Flowers).
G.L. Mauner, The Nabis: Their History and Their Art, 1888-1896, New York, 1978, p. 261.
C. Frèches-Thory, "Jardin publics de Vuillard" in La revue du Louvre et des musées de France, 1979, vol. XXIX, no. 4, p. 312, note 18.
B. Thomson, Vuillard, New York, 1988, p. 40.
J. Warnod, Vuillard, Paris, 1988, p. 35.
C.B. Bailey, J.J. Rishel and M. Rosenthal, Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1989, pp. 112-113 and 197, notes 9 and 10 (titled Dressing Table (Dans les fleurs)).
M. Makarius, Vuillard, Paris, 1989, p. 24 (titled Dans les fleurs).
A. Dumas and G. Cogeval, Vuillard, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 1990, p. 231.
C. Frèches-Thory and A. Terrasse, The Nabis: Bonnard, Vuillard, and their Circle, Paris, 1990, pp. 122-126 (illustrated, p. 123).
J. Chippindale and P. Aldridge, Vuillard: A National Touring Exhibition from the South Bank Center, exh. cat., Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow, 1991, pp. 47 and 90.
G. Groom, Edouard Vuillard, Painter-Decorator, Patrons and Projects, 1892-1912, New Haven, 1993, pp. 69-81 and 223, no. 44 (illustrated in color, p. 70, pl. 116; detail illustrated in color, p. 79).
U. Perucchi-Petri, Nabis, 1888-1900, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich, 1993, pp. 304 and 342 (illustrated, fig. 172.2).
A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, Vuillard: Le regard innombrable, catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, Paris, 2003, vol. I, p. 432, no. V-96.4 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Maison de l'Art Nouveau, Premier salon de l'art nouveau, December 1895-January 1896, no. 210.
Berlin, Ausstellungshaus am Kurfürstendamm, Elfte Aisstellung der Berliner Secession, Spring 1906, no. 296 (titled Dekorationsbilder).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Fransosische Kunst des XIX u XX Jahrhunderts, October-November 1917, p. 37, no. 355 (titled La femme dans les fleurs).
Paris, Hôtel de la Curiosité et des Beaux-Arts, Cent ans de peinture française, March-April 1922, no. 161 (titled Panneau décoratif).
Bristol, The Royal West of England Academy, French Modern Art, May-June 1930, p. 14, no. 94 (titled Amidst the Flowers).
New York, Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., Paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard, Roussel, October 1930, no. 31 (titled Dans les fleurs and dated 1901).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Bonnard, Vuillard, May-July 1932, p. 26, no. 124 (titled Dans les fleurs and dated 1892-1893 and with inverted dimensions).
Paris, Musée du Louvre, Le décor de la vie sous la IIIème République de 1870 à 1900, April-July 1933, p. 42, no. 339 (titled Dans les fleurs and dated 1892).
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., An Exhibition of Paintings and Pastels by E. Vuillard, June 1934, no. 5 (titled Dans les fleurs).
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Exposition E. Vuillard, May-June 1938, no. 37a (titled Dans les fleurs).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Porijsche schilders, Bonnard, Braque, Léger, Matisse, Picasso, Rouault, Utrillo, Vuillard, Tentoongstrelit onder de suspicien ren de "Association francaise d'action artistique", February-April 1939, no. 136 (titled Tusschen de bloemen).
Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, La pintura francesa de David a nuestros dias, July-August 1939, p. 156, no. 202a (titled Escenas de interior, en las flores; dated 1893 and with inverted dimensions).
Montevideo, Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes, La Pintura Francesa: De David a Nuestros Días, April 1940, no. 149.
Rio de Janeiro, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Exposiçã de Pintura Francesa, July 1940, no. 171.
San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, The Painting of France Since the French Revolution, December 1940-January 1941, p. 41, no. 169 (titled In the Flowers and dated 1893).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Aspects of French painting from Cézanne to Picasso, January-March 1941, no. 62 (titled In the Flowers and dated 1893).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Masterpieces of French Art Lent by the Museums and Collectors of France, April-May 1941, p. 42, no. 166 (titled Among the Flowers and dated 1893).
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paintings by Bonnard and Vuillard, January 1943, no. 5.
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Manet to Picasso: Still Life, Exhibition for the Benefit of the Children's Aid Society Homemaker Service, March 1944, no. 22 (illustrated; titled Le dejeuner fleuri).
Boston, The Institute of Modern Art, La Vie Française: An Exhibition of Paintings Chiefly by Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, October-November 1944, no. 24 (titled Fleurs dans un vase emailè and dated circa 1900).
Washington, D.C., The French Embassy, French Paintings of the Twentieth Century (1900-1933), 1945, no. 78 (titled Dans les fleurs and dated circa 1901).
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Exhibition of French Paintings of the XIXth and XXth Centuries, November-December 1945, no. 11 (titled Dans les Fleurs and dated circa 1900).
Kunsthalle Basel, Edouard Vuillard, March-May 1949, p. 18, no. 232 (titled Conversation).
The Brooklyn Museum, The Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard, May-July 1990, p. 117.
The Art Institute of Chicago and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Beyond the Easel: Decorative Paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890-1930, February-September 2001, pp. 126-131 and 266, no. 38 (illustrated in color, p. 129).
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Edouard Vuillard, January-April 2003, p. 186, no. 128 (illustrated in color, p. 190).

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

Of the five panels, including the present lot, commissioned by Thadée and Misia Natanson, three can be found in public institutions, including The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

“A muted symphony, where relationships never seen before harmonize and vibrate deeper and deeper as they are contemplated—melodious outbursts, postures skillfully linked, composed according the memory that moved him. It is a brilliant profusion of colorful harmonious splendors upon which a tender soul drapes itself” (Thadée Natanson quoted in G. Groom, exh. cat., op. cit., 1993, p. 76).
So wrote Thadée Natanson, co-founder of the influential journal La Revue Blanche, about the suite of five decorative paintings—the present canvas among them—that he and his wife Misia commissioned from Vuillard in 1895 to adorn their apartment on the rue Saint-Florentin, the epicenter of Paris’s most advanced artistic and literary circle at this time. Depicting elegant young women reading, talking, embroidering, and arranging flowers within a luxuriantly appointed domestic interior, the five elaborately patterned panels—collectively known as the Album—constitute a subjective, symbolist-inspired re-envisioning of the Natansons’ cultivated milieu, in which poetry, art, and music reigned supreme, and the mundane, material world was held at bay. “The Album panels, which presented themselves from the outset as a high-water mark in Vuillard’s art, may be viewed as an allegory of life in the Natanson home,” Guy Cogeval has written, “where refined tastes and the art of living were combined” (op. cit., 2003, p. 434).
Vuillard first entered the Natansons’ orbit in 1891, when Thadée—a keen advocate of the band of young avant-garde painters who called themselves the Nabis—gave him his first solo show in the offices of La Revue Blanche. In 1893, Thadée married the prodigiously charismatic Misia, a gifted pianist and born iconoclast, who soon became the object of reticent Vuillard’s unrequited infatuation, as well as the muse and darling of the sophisticated, intellectual society that revolved around La Revue Blanche. “Her position, combined with her unique personal style, her seductive charm, and her almost physical need to be constantly surrounded by people, was to make her the magnetic center, the feminine touchstone for one of the most gifted circles of artists Paris has ever known,” Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale have observed (Misia: The Life of Misia Sert, New York, 1980, p. 38).
For Vuillard, his relationship with the Natansons—Misia especially—was like a religious conversion, life-changing and all-consuming. By the middle of the decade, he saw them almost daily. They purchased his work in quantity and recommended him unreservedly to friends; they afforded him inside access to the very latest in arts and ideas, and they demonstrated a way of life—a taste and a culture—that fascinated the sheltered young artist. “Vuillard’s vision of reality,” Cogeval has written, “which melded bodies, faces, inanimate objects, flowers, draperies and light into a single texture, was developed and supported by his contact with Misia, whose appearance in the interiors he painted represented a daily miracle for him. His painting, even when Misia was not in the picture, was conditioned by the imprint in space of her passing” (op. cit., 2003, pp. 454-455).
Vuillard painted the five panels of the Album for the sprawling central room of the Natansons’ apartment—at once parlor, music chamber, and salon—where Misia hosted a spirited weekly soirée for the painters, poets, composers, and critics of La Revue Blanche. In lieu of the prim refinement of their conventionally haut bourgeois childhood homes, Misia and Thadée embraced in their own shared space a cluttered and eclectic informality. The main room was profusely decorated with millefleur tapestries, exotic textiles, oriental rugs, and upholstered furniture; the walls were covered in a heavily patterned, Arts and Crafts-style paper, with a crisscross motif of leaves and flowers. In the Album paintings, Vuillard used densely layered patterns, closely ranged tonalities, and a delicately stippled technique to create an all-over, tapestry-like surface effect that harmonized with this laden setting. “Space does not retreat before us,” John Russell wrote, “we can caress it” (Edouard Vuillard, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1971, p. 59).
The present painting depicts two women in conversation, with a third partially visible in profile at the far left; they are all, Joseph Rishel has suggested, variants of Misia, clad in the charming, patterned day dresses that she favored and with their hair informally pinned up like hers (exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 112). The heads of the two women at the left seem to emerge, dream-like, from the copious bouquet of chrysanthemums on the table in the foreground, only to vanish once again into the patterned wallpaper; the third participant, seen from behind, dissolves into the deepening shadows at the periphery of the painting, absorbed compositionally and psychologically into the interior. The very ethereality of the figures contrasts with and underscores the palpable existence of the objects around them, heightening the impression of sensuous abundance.
“The mood is languorous, subdued, and highly sensual,” Kimberly Jones has written. “The spatial ambiguity—the tension between the two-dimensional picture plane and the illusory three-dimensional interior space—that marks so many of the artist’s domestic interiors from this period is particularly pronounced here, further intensifying the rarefied atmosphere of domestic calm and mystery that pervades the suite as a whole. Even the women themselves seem to blend into their surroundings, their features vague, their forms simply another ornamental element in the elaborately patterned picture” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2003, p. 191).
The five panels of the Album, though harmoniously unified in subject, palette, and technique, have disparate sizes and orientations, which allowed for varying decorative arrangements within the unstructured environment of the Natanson apartment. The title of the ensemble comes from the motif of the largest panel, which shows women leafing through an album, suggesting that Vuillard drew on the idea of a portfolio of prints with a loosely connected theme and diverse formats. Of the five paintings in the group, only the present canvas and Le pot de grès share the same dimensions (Salomon and Cogeval, no. V-96.5; Christie’s New York, 18 November 1998, lot 38); the smallest panel, Le corsage rayé, is the same height as these but half the width (no. V-96.1; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). The remaining two canvases have an unusual, exceptionally narrow format, but one—L’Album—is oriented length-wise while the other, Les Brodeuses, is a vertical composition (nos. V-96.2 and V-96.3; The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, respectively).
Photographs and paintings of the Natanson apartment indicate that the panels were originally hung unframed or sometimes propped informally against the wall, blending with the undulating arabesques of the wallpaper. They did not remain in fixed positions but rather were arranged and re-arranged according their owners’ whim, functioning more like portable textiles than integral murals. Thadée and Misia even brought the paintings along when they left Paris each summer, installing them in their country house at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne in Burgundy, where Vuillard was a frequent guest.
A month after Vuillard completed the paintings in November 1895, they were included in the inaugural exhibition of the dealer Siegfried Bing’s Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris, the first of the artist’s decorative ensembles to be shown publicly. When the Natansons’ marriage ended in 1904, the panels stayed with Thadée; in 1908, facing bankruptcy, he was forced to sell at auction, and the ensemble was dispersed. La table de toilette entered the personal collection of Vuillard’s dealer Jos Hessel, whose wife Lucy had replaced Misia by that time as the artist’s closest confidante and abiding muse. “As for Lucy,” reads a note in his journal, “guiding light that she is—domination—bewitchment...totally dazzled by her” (quoted in G. Groom, op. cit., 1993, p. 148). The Hessels kept the present painting at least until 1941, the year after Vuillard—a lifelong bachelor—died with Lucy at his side.

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