With great beauty and sensitivity, Vuillard captured scenes from everyday life in the cosseted surroundings of the Parisian apartments he frequented. While Vuillard was never a society painter in the conventional sense of the term, he was able to capture an intimate view of the behind-the-scenes society world, within which his success reserved him a top place: "No artist was able to render the soul of an interior to such a degree. That feeling of an inhabited space ... We enjoy the same sort of intimacy with him as in conversation with certain agreeable people, when the talk results in a mutual perception of subtle things, when thoughts no longer require words for their interchange, and we are silent lest we disturb them ... His finest works, the simplest, ... raise him without question to the level of modern decorative masters" (J. Meier-Graefe, The Development of Modern Art, 1908; quoted in J. Russell, Vuillard, London, 1971, p. 98).
Le concert matinal, place Vintimille depicts an intimate scene wherein three musicians, two violinists and a pianist, have staged an impromptu concert. The "salon" in which the musicians have gathered is in fact Mme Vuillard's private chamber in the apartment she shared with her son on La place Vintimille. "The renowned violinist Léon Nauwinck was fond of painting; he knew that Vuillard enjoyed music, and consequently got into the habit of dropping by from time to time to soothe his morning doldrums, shortly before lunch, accompanied by Mme Ortmans-Bach and the pianist Claude Crussard. The easel and the drawing-table served as music stands. There were never more than three or four of us to enjoy these sessions, which were held in Mme Vuillard's bedroom, thereby adding fervour to the pleasure of listening to the music of Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi. Annette at Villerville and Bonnard's screen [both] figure in this masterly brush-and-distemper- sketch that us the very incarnation of life" (J. Salomon, op. cit., Paris, 1968, p. 177).
Le concert matinal, place Vintimille embodies a mysterious spirit of musicality in its delicate harmonies of color, texture, design and composition. From the heightened perspective of the painter, one can see in the corner behind the pianist a folding screen painted by Bonnard. To the right hangs a portrait of a bearded man who bears a strong likeness to Ker-Xavier Roussel, the brother-in-law of Vuillard. At the center of the composition is the painting Annette sur la plage de Villerville (Salomon and Cogeval, no. VIII-393; Private collection), which depicts Roussel's daughter--Vuillard's niece--on the beach. The painting was dear to Vuillard's heart; indeed, the peaceful harmony of gray and brown which emerges from this scene suggests, by the same quality of its silence, the deep musical quality of the art of the painter who enjoyed the rare pleasure of listening to the musicians at his home. "Vuillard was the spectator who partook but never intruded, preferring to capture the mood from a distance. The interior was for Vuillard a personal metaphor for himself--an inner space, self-controlled and cut off from the world, but rife with possibilities. In Vuillard's claustrophobic interiors of the 1890s, objects as well as gestures seem endowed with an inner life, and we feel the relentless psychological scrutiny of the painter...But it was family life, confined within these ever-present walls, that aroused Vuillard's most powerful emotions. His interiors function as theaters within which the family enacted the consuming drama of everyday experience" (E.W. Easton, The Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard, London, 1989, p. 4).
Vuillard had developed his taste in music by listening to Misia Natanson at the piano. Misia was a pianist of Polish descent who hosted an artistic salon in Paris; she was a patron and friend of numerous artists for whom she regularly posed, including Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Vuillard's relationship with Misia and her husband, Thadée, was the most important influence on his art during the 1890s--as well as providing contact with the foremost literary and artistic men of the day, it brought him into a worldly social milieu which was to provide the subject matter of many of his finest pictures.