FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)
FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)
FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)
FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)
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MASTERPIECES FROM THE COLLECTION OF SAM JOSEFOWITZ: A LIFETIME OF DISCOVERY AND SCHOLARSHIP
FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)

Cinq heures

Details
FÉLIX VALLOTTON (1865-1925)
Cinq heures
signed and dated 'F. Vallotton 98' (lower right)
gouache on board
14 1⁄8 x 22 7⁄8 in. (36 x 58.1 cm.)
Painted in 1898
Provenance
Paul Vallotton, Lausanne, [the artist's brother] by descent from the artist in 1926.
Richard Bühler, Winterthur, by whom acquired from the above in 1926; his sale, Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 2 September 1935, lot 12.
Galerie Moos, Geneva (no. 886), by whom acquired at the above sale.
Galerie Paul Vallotton, Lausanne (no. 8503), by whom acquired from the above on 9 February 1951.
Maurice Gilbert, Geneva, by whom acquired from the above in 1952, and thence by descent.
Galerie Paul Vallotton, Lausanne (no. 10064), by whom acquired from the above in 1968.
Acquired from the above on 2 February 1970, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
G. Geffroy, 'Exposition chez Durand-Ruel' in Le Journal, Paris, 15 March 1899.
J. Leclercq, 'Petites expositions: Galeries Durand-Ruel' in La Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, Paris, 18 March 1899, no. 11, p. 95.
'Le Lettres et les arts: Galeries Durand-Ruel' in Le Cri de Paris, vol. 3, Paris, 26 March 1899, no. 113, p. 6.
A.B., 'Notes d'art, Chez Durand-Ruel' in La Justice, Journal politique du matin, Paris, 27 March 1899, p. 2.
F. Thiébault-Sisson, 'Au Jour le Jour: Choses d'art, Un Salon d'avant-garde' in Le Temps, no. 13810, Paris, 29 March 1899, p. 2.
Y. Rambosson, 'La promenade de Janus, causeries d'art, VI' in La Plume littéraire, artistique et sociale, no. 243, Paris, 1 June 1899, p. 383.
A. Benois, 'La chronique des arts. Les entretiens avec l'artiste. Les expositions de Paris. L'exposition chez Durand-Ruel' in Mir Iskousstva, St. Petersburg, 1899, vol. 1, p. 112.
H. Ghéon, 'Lettre à Angèle: Chez Durand-Ruel, Le pointillisme' in L'Ermitage: Revue mensuelle de littérature', Paris, vol. 18, January - June 1899, p. 315.
G.M., 'Studio-Talk' in The Studio, London, 1899, vol. 16, p. 282.
J. Meier-Graefe, 'L'Ecole moderne chez Durand-Ruel' in L'Art décoratif, Revue internationale d'art industriel et de décoration, Paris, March 1899, p. 307.
Mir Iskousstva, St. Petersburg, 1904, nos. 8 & 9 (illustrated p. 225).
H. Trog, 'Valloton - Ausstellung im Zürcher Kunsthaus I.' in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich, 12 February 1928.
H. Trog, 'Valloton - Ausstellung im Zürcher Kunsthaus II.' in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich, 19 February 1928.
F. Jourdain, Félix Vallotton: Mit einer Studie von Edmund Jaloux, Geneva, 1953, no. 19, p. 219 (illustrated).
M. Denis, Journal, vol. I, 1884-1904, Paris, 1957, p. 150.
A. Kohler, 'Vallotton, un découvreur' in Coopération, Basel, vol. 19, 8 May 1965, p. 3.
A. Zarate, 'Au Petit-Palais. Vallotton le mal-aimé' in L'Aurore, Paris, 19 April 1979.
R. Koella, Félix Vallotton, Zurich, 1979, p. 55 (illustrated).
S. Preston, 'Old Wine into New Bottles: Reflections on Post-Impressionism' in Apollo, London, vol. CXI, no. 215, January 1980, p. 55 (illustrated pl. VI; titled 'Intimacy: Interior with Lovers and a Screen').
G. Busch, B. Dorival & D. Jakubec, Félix Vallotton, Leben und Werk, Frauenfeld, 1982, pp. 105 & 235 (illustrated p. 144; titled 'Amoureux au paravent').
G. Levin, 'The Office Image in the Visual Arts' in Arts Magazine, New York, vol. 59, no. 1, September 1984, p. 99 (illustrated fig. 6; titled 'Intimacy: Interior with Lovers and a Screen').
G. Busch, B. Dorival, P. Grainville & D. Jakubec, Vallotton, Lausanne, 1985, no. 39, pp. 8 & 232 (illustrated p. 8, fig. 39; titled 'Amoureux au paravent'; with incorrect dimensions).
D. Kelder, L'héritage de l'impressionisme, Les sources de XXe siècle, Paris, 1986 (illustrated p. 205).
C. Boyle-Turner, Les nabis, Lausanne, 1993, p. 140 (illustrated; titled 'Intimité').
A. Ellridge, Gauguin et les nabis, Paris, 1993, pp. 116 & 117 (illustrated; titled 'Intérieur'; with incorrect dimensions).
U.P., 'Grosser Ausstellungssaal und Graphisches Kabinett, Die Nabis, Propheten der Moderne, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton und Ihre Freunde in Paris um 1900' in Mitteilungsblatt der Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, vol. 2, Zurich, 1993 (illustrated p. 9).
J.-P. Monery, Félix Vallotton, exh. cat., Saint-Tropez, 1995, p. 104 (illustrated p. 68; titled 'Intimité').
M. Jover, 'Félix Vallotton: Drames sur canapés' in Beaux Arts, Paris, no. 134, May 1995 (illustrated pp. 68 & 69).
J. Sutherland, ed., The Oxford Book of English Love Stories, Oxford, 1996 (illustrated on the front and back covers).
R. Koella, Félix Vallotton: Maler und Grafiker im Paris der Jahrhundertwende, Bietigheim-Bissingen, 2003, pp. 46 & 47 (illustrated fig. 25, p. 47; titled 'Intime Szene: Interieur mit Liebespaar und Wandschirm').
M. Ducrey, Félix Vallotton 1865-1925: L'œuvre peint, vol. II, Catalogue Raisonné, Première partie: 1878-1909, Lausanne, 2005, no. 252, pp. 150 & 151 (illustrated p. 150).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Exposition, March 1899, nos. 65-70 (one of the six 'Intérieurs avec figures').
(Possibly) Paris, Galerie Druet, Exposition Félix Vallotton, Peintures 1886-1919, May - June 1923.
Winterthur, Kunstverein, Gedächtnis-ausstellung Félix Vallotton, May - June 1926, no. 39.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Félix Vallotton, January - February 1928, no. 26, p. 9 (titled 'Liebespaar'; with incorrect provenance and inverted dimensions).
Bern, Kunsthalle, Die Maler der Revue blanche, Toulouse-Lautrec und die Nabis, March - April 1951, no. 153 (titled 'Intérieur'; with incorrect dimensions).
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Peintures de Félix Vallotton 1865-1925, June - September 1953, no. 17 (titled 'Intimité').
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Félix Vallotton, April - June 1954, no. 15 (titled 'Intimité'); this exhibition later travelled to Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, June 1954.
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Bonnard, Vuillard et les nabis 1888-1903, June - October 1955, no. 166, p. 68 (titled 'Intimité'; with incorrect dimensions).
Basel, Kunsthalle, Ausstellung Félix Vallotton, January - February 1957, no. 31 (titled 'Intimité'; with incorrect dimensions).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Félix Vallotton, April - May 1965, no. 41 (illustrated pl. XI; with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Vallotton, October - November 1966, no. 23, p. 38 (titled 'Intimité'); this exhibition later travelled to Charleroi, Palais de Beaux-Arts, December 1966 - January 1967.
Winterthur, Kunst Museum, Félix Vallotton, October - November 1978, no. 30, p. 38 (illustrated pl. 3; titled 'Couple dans un interieur avec paravent'); this exhibition later travelled to Bremen, Kunsthalle, December 1978 - January 1979; Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle, February - March 1979; Paris, Musée de Petit Palais, April - June 1979; Geneva, Musée Rath, July - September 1979.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Post-Impressionism, Cross-Currents in European Painting, November 1979 - March 1980, no. 274, p. 177 (illustrated p. 110; titled 'Intimacy: Interior with Lovers and a Screen'); this exhibition later travelled to Washington, National Gallery of Art, May - September 1980, no. 123.
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Félix Vallotton: A Retrospective, October 1991 - January 1992, no. 173, p. 145 (illustrated; titled 'Intimacy (Interior with couple and screen)'); this exhibition later travelled to Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, January - March 1992; Indianapolis, Museum of Art, April - June 1992; Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, August - November 1992 and Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, November 1992 - January 1993.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Nabis 1888-1900, May - August 1993, no. 128, pp. 282 & 283 (illustrated p. 283; titled 'Intimité: Couple dans un intérieur avec paravent'); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, September 1993 - January 1994.
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Félix Vallotton, August - November 1995, no. 24 (illustrated; titled 'Intime Szene: Interieur mit Liebespaar und Wandschirm'); this exhibition later travelled to Essen, Folkwang Museum, November 1995 - February 1996.
Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Intime Welten: Das Interieur bei den Nabis: Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, 1999, no. 25, pp. 88, 97 & 110 (illustrated p. 39).
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza & Fundacion Caja Madrid, La Sombra, February - May 2009, no. 47, p. 142 (illustrated; titled 'Conversación amorosa Intimidad').
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Félix Vallotton: Le feu sous la glace, October 2013 - January 2014, no. 54, pp. 29, 42, 104 & 281 (illustrated p. 116); this exhibition later travelled to Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Félix Vallotton: Fire beneath the ice, February - June 2014, no. 73, pp. 20, 44, 96, 104 & 155 (illustrated p. 104) and Tokyo, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, June - September 2014.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet, June - September 2019, no. 24, p. 86 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2019 - January 2020.
Cleveland, Museum of Art, Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900, July - September 2021; this exhibition later travelled to Portland, Portland Art Museum, October 2021 - January 2022.
Further details
This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition Félix Vallotton. A Retrospective to be held at Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, from October 2025 to February 2026, to mark the centenary of the artist's death.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Beginning in 1897, Félix Vallotton devoted himself to the theme of the morality play. In these tragicomic compositions, protagonists have dalliances and affairs, they plot and scheme, and all the action transpires within the bourgeois apartment. The subject was explored in two separate but linked series, Intimités, which comprises ten black-and-white woodcuts, and then six paintings collectively known as Intérieurs avec figures. The woodcuts were published in a limited edition of thirty and shown in December of 1898 at the offices of La Revue blanche, the avant-garde magazine for which Vallotton was a frequent contributor. The paintings were completed contemporaneously and first exhibited at Galerie Durand-Ruel in March of the following year. Together, these works are now recognized as Vallotton’s masterpieces, the distillation of a remarkable voice.
Painted in 1898, Cinq heures depicts a couple in close embrace, entwined together on a red armchair; the seventh print in Intimités is also titled Cinq heures, though the composition of the painting seems to be drawn equally from both the homonymous woodblock print as well as another in the series, Le mensonge (Ducrey, vol. II, no. 244; Baltimore Museum of Art). Lit from the left, the figures cast dark shadows across the carpeted floor. Although suffused with a palette of warm brown, pink, and butter yellow, Cinq heures is a claustrophobic painting, an impression heightened by the clutter of papers and looming furniture which surrounds the couple. These pieces reinforce the sense of concealment and mystery that shrouds the painting, yet Vallotton offers no clues about the couple’s relationship: are they husband and wife or is this a clandestine tryst? Interestingly, rather than representing the woman as the victim of a man’s wandering eye, he instead ‘pictures them as equal players in a game of secrecy and deceit’ (B. Alsdorf, Gawkers: Art and Audience in Late Nineteenth-Century France, Princeton, 2022, p. 206). Though the painting’s title Cinq heures, or five hours, sounds rather banal when translated into English, the phrase ‘cinq à sept’ in French refers to the hours spent with one’s lover. Despite such allusions, the painting seems the ‘least acerbic’ of the series (M. Ducrey, Félix Vallotton, L'oeuvre peint, Le peintre, Lausanne, 2005, vol. I, p. 130). Though the folding screen hints at indiscretion, the couple are far from hidden but instead illuminated at the centre of the composition.
Cinq heures encapsulates the radical aesthetic development that Vallotton’s practice was undergoing during this period. The artist first arrived in Paris at the age of sixteen from Lausanne where he had grown up. Once in the French capital, he enrolled at the Académie Julian, which he selected over the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for its more progressive syllabus. Still, many of his early paintings were relatively conventional, with traditional subjects and perspectival systems; not until Vallotton took up woodcut printmaking in 1891 did his idiom shift dramatically. Encouraged by his friend, the painter Charles Maurin, as well as the explosion of print production during these years, Vallotton turned to woodcuts, the oldest form of printmaking, as a means of expressing his biting imagery. Indeed, the simplified forms that the woodblock produced allowed the young artist to hone his satirical wit, and his illustrations were widely published in magazines such as Le Cri de Paris, L’Escarmouche, and La Revue blanche. Such exposure led to an invitation to join the Nabis – the young artists who sought to collapse the divide between the fine and decorative arts – and beginning in 1893, Vallotton began to associate with the group. While he toyed with some of the Nabis’ principal ideas, and developed a close friendship with Edouard Vuillard, one of its chief proponents, Vallotton cultivated ‘a singular voice,’ one that was ‘articulated and amplified’ through his printmaking practice (D. Amory and A. Dumas, ‘Introduction: “The Very Singular Vallotton”’ in Félix Vallotton, exh. cat., Royal Academy, London, 2019, p. 9).
It was through printmaking that Vallotton developed his graphic aesthetic, casting his eye first towards the streets of Paris and later its domestic spaces. While the lighting of Cinq heures is less stark than the related print, the shadows are nevertheless menacing in their challenge to spatial expectations. Indeed, with their raking lighting and flat, planar backgrounds, Vallotton’s interior scenes from the 1890s possess a certain theatricality. He treated his compositions like stage settings in which furniture and props were moved depending on what the scene required. To arrive at his arrangements, Vallotton looked to the furniture that filled his atelier, which is why, for example, the red armchair in Cinq heures appears in multiple works from this period. Beyond the feeling of these paintings, however, the conceit of the theatre itself too shaped these scenes. As Phillippe Büttner has argued, ‘Vallotton can rightly be described as the first great "painter-playwright" in modern art’ and like any great director, he ‘exert[ed] painstaking control over the viewer’s act of perceptions’ (P. Büttner, ‘Vallotton’s Visual Storytelling in the Time of Early Modernism’, in ibid., 2019, p. 39).
That the narrative quality of Vallotton’s paintings is so potent owes much to the technical advancements in photography made during these years. Like many of his contemporaries, the development of the handheld Kodak camera in the 1890s led the artist to experiment with the photographic image, and he explored the camera’s potential to record the ephemeral and the fleeting – which he then was able to study at length back in his atelier. The camera revealed to Vallotton new ways of observing the world and he often framed the photographs he took in innovative ways, employing unusual viewpoints and cropping scenes to capture a sense of drama or movement. While few of his photographs survive, those that do reveal the ways in which the camera influenced his pictorial strategies. In Cinq heures, this is suggested by the folded screen which projects towards the viewer as well as the sharp diagonal around which everything is arranged. Though artificial, the painting’s organisation nevertheless feels true.
More significant perhaps than the role photography played in Vallotton’s practice was the influence of faits divers, the brief punchy stories of the scandalous and the quotidian that French newspapers began to publish during the last decades of the 19th century. These detailed carriage accidents, quarrels, suicides, fires, robberies, explosions – in short the dramas that, according to Le Grande larousse universel where the term first appeared in 1872, ‘circulate around the world’ and make stars out of ordinary people (Le Grande larousse universel, 1872, reprinted in B. Alsdorf, Gawkers: Art and Audience in Late Nineteenth-Century France, Princeton, 2022, p. 31). ‘The newspaper faits divers,’ writes Vanessa Schwartz, ‘implied that the everyday might be transformed into the shocking and sensational and ordinary people lifted from anonymity of urban life and into the realm of spectacle’ (V. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris, Oakland, 1999, p. 36).
As expected given their salacious content, the faits divers were consumed by a wide swathe of the French public, from the avant-garde to the bourgeoisie. These anecdotes influenced several authors, notably Émile Zola and Guy de Maupassant, and Vallotton likely made use of them as well. At the very least, argues Bridget Alsdorf, he was ‘sensitive to the ways in which journalism and art overlapped as cultural fields’ and the ‘narrative quality' of much of Vallotton’s early works, 'not to mention their provocative yet prosaic subject matter…correspond[s] in striking ways to the popular phenomenon of the faits divers’ (op. cit., 2022, p. 34). Vallotton was a master of the melodramatic and he understood just how thrilling a spectacle could be. A love affair or a forbidden kiss are indeed both provocative and prosaic, at once extraordinary for those involved and inconsequential to the rest of the world.
By observing such moments, the artist positioned himself – and thus the viewer – as the voyeur quietly spying on the amorous couple. This was a role that Vallotton frequently adopted in his art, that of badaud, or gawker, the man in the crowd. Many of his illustrations concerned the activity of public spaces, be that the theatre of a funeral procession or the frenzied atmosphere of the Bon Marché department store. While gawking may be passive, it is not inherently apathetic: ‘To gawk,’ writes Alsdorf, ‘is also to imagine others gawking at you, an empathetic yet narcissistic impulse that may not translate into an effort to help or connect’ (ibid., p. 237). As Thadée Natanson, the co-founder of La Revue blanche, wrote, ‘We laugh, we shudder, we’re moved, we’re indignant, we shiver. The delicious, disturbing spectacle’ (T. Natanson, ‘Petite gazette d’art. De M. Félix Vallotton’, La Revue blanche, 1 January 1899, p. 75). Under Vallotton’s hand, we are all complicit.

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