Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

Le grenier de la Grangette à Valvins

Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Le grenier de la Grangette à Valvins
signed and dated 'Vuillard 97' (upper right)
oil on board laid down on cradled panel
18 x 25 7/8 in. (45.8 x 65.7 cm.)
Painted in 1897
Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired from the artist, circa 1899).
M. Schmoll, Paris.
Fritz Nathan, St. Gallen (by 1946).
Dr. Christoph Bernouilli, Basel.
Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., New York (October 1947).
Samuel H. Maslon, Minneapolis (January 1956).
E.V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York.
Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., London.
B.E. Bensinger, Chicago (1966).
William Kennedy, New York.
H. Wendell Cherry, Kentucky (by 1971).
Maurice Sternberg, Chicago.
Jack S. Josey, Houston (by 1982).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 18 November 1986, lot 28.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owners.
A. Gold and R. Fizdale, The Life of Misia Sert, New York, 1980, p. 58 (titled Room Under the Eaves).
A. Georges, Symbolisme et décor, Vuillard, 1888-1905, Ph.D. Diss., Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris, 1982, p. 154.
S. Preston, Edouard Vuillard, New York, 1985, p. 72 (illustrated in color, p. 73; titled Room Under the Eaves).
P. Ciaffa, The Portraits of Edouard Vuillard, Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, New York, 1985, pp. 252-253 (illustrated fig. 118).
D. Mahon, The Yellow Book, Winston-Salem, 1998 (detail illustrated in color on the cover; titled Chambre Sous L'Avant-Toit).
A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Le regard innombrable, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, Paris, 2003, vol. I, p. 466, no. VI-12 (illustrated in color; dated 1896).
Kunsthalle Bern, Edouard Vuillard, Alexander Müllegg, June-July 1946, no. 69 (titled Mansarde).
The Cleveland Museum of Art and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Edouard Vuillard, January-June 1954, pp. 16 and 102 (illustrated in color, pl. 45; titled Room Under the Eaves).
The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Two Sides of The Medal, French Painting from Gérôme to Gauguin, 1954, p. 60, no. 136 (titled The Attic Studio).
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1956 (on loan).
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Drawings, Paintings & Sculpture from Three Private Collections, July-August 1960, no. 119 (titled Room Under the Eaves).
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., Paris-Londres, April-May 1966, no. 23 (illustrated; titled La Mansarde).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Masterpieces from Private Collections in Chicago, July-August 1969 (titled The Mansard (M. and Mme Nathanson)).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor and The Art Institute of Chicago, Edouard Vuillard, September 1971-March 1972, p. 230, no. 43 (illustrated).
Amarillo Art Center, Early French Moderns, The Genesis of The Modern Era, August-November 1982, no. 26 (illustrated in color; dated 1892 and titled Room Under the Eaves).
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art; Paris, Grand Palais and London, Royal Academy of Arts, Edouard Vuillard, January 2003-April 2004, p. 213, no. 145 (illustrated in color, pp. 214-215; dated 1896).
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Lot Essay

An Impressionist’s brilliant sunlight was normally of limited use to Vuillard while he was working, even by day, in the intimate domestic settings that he made his métier. He instead depended upon, preferred, and—as if he were a stage director—became expert at employing artificial lighting, revealing effects that while familiar and prosaic, subtly evoked epiphanies of quiet poetry and latent drama. During the mid- and late 1890s, Vuillard explored tenebrism in his painting, purposefully seeking out and depicting nocturnal subjects, at home and in public places, which were steeped in darkness and shadow, illuminated only dimly or in part by a single lamp or unseen sources. The challenge of such constraints nonetheless inspired the artist to create compositions as rich in hue and tint as his more overtly luminous interiors. The scene here—the attic study in Misia and Thadée Natanson’s summer country home La Grangette in Valvins, on the Seine southeast of Paris, painted in 1896—is among the most magical and symbolist of these paintings.
Alfred and Thadée Natanson founded La Revue Blanche in 1889; the brothers published the first issues of their journal of the arts and social commentary in Brussels, then two years later set up shop in Paris. When Thadée married Misia Godebska in 1893, the review had found in this talented musician and pianist, who as a child had played for Franz Liszt and later studied with Gabriel Fauré, its resident muse. La Revue Blanche—“white” as the sum of all colors—quickly became famous for its hospitality to fin de siècle poets, writers, and commentators of many stripes, and remained a leading cynosure of intellectual discourse in France and throughout Europe for the next decade. The Natansons decided in 1893 to include in each issue an original print, enlisting contributors among the Nabi painters, then the newest, most youthful avant-garde in the capital—Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, and Félix Vallotton, together with the older, more practiced and worldly artiste indépendant Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Vuillard and Thadée Natanson became life-long friends. The artist became longingly infatuated with Misia, but accepted his role as a sensitive confidant and settled into a profoundly platonic relationship with this remarkable woman. He was a frequent visitor to the Natansons' apartment on the rue Saint-Florentin, also on holidays and during the summer at La Grangette in Valvins, near the home of the Symbolist paragon Stéphane Mallarmé. Vuillard painted the couple, singly and together, in their homes on numerous occasions.
In this scene at La Grangette, Misia—barely distinguishable in profile at left—and Thadée attend to their journal’s editing and correspondence. Anna Vaillant, Alfred’s daughter, recalled how the “light shone through a green opaline lampshade on the little pictures that Vuillard painted during the quiet evenings” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1971, p. 121). This lamp was the primary motif in two other paintings at half the size of the present picture, painted the previous year (Salomon and Cogeval, vol. I, nos. VI-13 and -14). The large dark form of Misia’s grand piano looms in the lower left corner, always at hand for her to toss off a Chopin prelude or polonaise (Misia was born to Polish parents in Moscow), as seen in a small painted study (vol. I, no. VI-15).
The network of roofbeams above the table at which the Natansons are seated catches the lamplight to reveal the slanted form of an ankh (?), the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic ideogram that signifies conception and life, rebirth and eternal existence. The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 to research and disseminate the ancient wisdom underlying all the world’s religions, to this day displays the ankh at the center of its seal. Numerous artists during the 1890s, perhaps even Vuillard himself, and likely some among the authors writing for La Revue Blanche explored theosophy. In Vuillard’s Intérieur, mystère (vol. I, no. IV-218), light passing through an arched portal from an adjoining room reveals a Greek tau (T)—in theosophy a symbol of ultimate reality—at the intersection of two wall moldings. Related to the female Venus symbol, the ankh is thought to represent the union of the male triad and female unit—an apt symbol, Vuillard may well have decided, to represent the inspiring marriage and partnership between Misia and Thadée Natanson.

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