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Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

Etude pour Les Couturières (recto); Homme (verso)

Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Etude pour Les Couturières (recto); Homme (verso)
stamped with signature 'E Vuillard' (Lugt 2497b; lower right)
pastel and charcoal on paper (recto); charcoal on paper (verso)
18 x 21 1/8 in. (45.5 x 53.7 cm.)
Drawn in 1890
Estate of the artist.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Irving and Mary Lazar, Los Angeles; Estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 1994, lot 161.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Le regard innombrable, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, Paris, 2003, vol. I, p. 130 (recto illustrated).
Purchase College, State University of New York, Neuberger Museum of Art, End Papers, Drawings 1890-1900 and 1990-2000, January-April 2000, p. 8, no. 5 (illustrated).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Édouard Vuillard Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

The present drawing is a preparatory sketch for Les Couturières, painted in 1890. While the final version depicts the artist’s mother, Madame Vuillard, and his sister, Marie, Vuillard included his grandmother as a third figure in this drawing. It is of no surprise that Vuillard chose his female relatives diligently working with fabric as subject matter: by the time Vuillard turned 16, his father had died and his older brother had joined the military. Thus, during his formative years, the running of the household was left to these three women, who arduously worked as dressmakers to support Vuillard through his studies. Raised in an environment filled with ribbons, chintz, and lace, and by a mother who encouraged him to pursue his art, Vuillard would portray his family and their profession many times in his work.
The difference in handling between this sketch and the final painting displays Vuillard’s progress in 1890 and the blossoming influence of the Nabis on his work, particularly Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard. In a short few months, Vuillard’s creative ability adapted this perspectival sketch, with its more traditional and natural style of drawing into the more Synthetist style seen in the painting. With its flat compartmentalization of color, Les Couturières can, in a way, be seen as a patchwork quilt of color—likewise the lines denoting color in this sketch as thread—a direct influence from the women’s sewing of fabric. Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval further explain, “To the art-lover familiar with modern painting, Les Couturières appears first and foremost as a jigsaw-puzzle of interlocking, undulating flat colours in which the two women grappling with the fabric are a kind of counterpart to the Breton women who observe the struggle between Jacob and the angel in Gauguin’s The Vision after the Sermon, a key Nabi painting which Vuillard will certainly have remarked at the ‘Café Volpini’ show in 1889...In two previously unpublished drawings, Marie’s face is delicately sketched in smooth, flowing lines that speak volumes about the progress Vuillard had made during 1890, since the painting can safely be dated to the autumn of that year. Relying, in his preparatory sketches, on an observation of reality that owes as much to Rembrandt as to Le Sueur, and adopting a deliberately traditional style of drawing, Vuillard suddenly opts for a dogmatic Synthetism when he sets about painting the canvas” (op. cit., pp. 131-132).

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