Between 1917 and 1924, Vuillard divided his time between the busy Parisian art world and 'Le Clos Cézanne', a country house owned by his friends the Hessels, in Vaucresson. Jos Hessel, an associate of Bernheim-Jeune, had been Vuillard's picture dealer for years. He is shown seated on the right. His wife Lucie reclines in the foreground as one of her friends, Madame Léopold Marchand, plays réussite.
This delicate pastel illustrates the mastery with which the artist is able to capture the nuances of French bourgeois leisure. In its careful and acute observation of the bourgeois interior, this work is similar to his famous painting La Visite (fig. 2), in which Madame Marchand and Lucie Hessel reappear. However, the use of pastel adds an extra dimension of suffused light and evanescent colour. Startling is Vuillard's transformation of the mundane interior into a decorative vision. He creates a subtle interplay between surface and depth as the corner of the room, emphasised in bold dark lines, alludes to perspectival space while also being used as a flattened decorative area of colour. The artist's sophisticated composition is further enhanced by the position of the sitters, which creates a dynamic circular motion contrasted by the overall stillness of the scene.
Vuillard's refined distortions of pictorial space clearly indicate his debt to photography (fig. 1) which, with its inherent deformation of the planes of depth, cropping, and the exaggeratedly enlarged elements in the foreground, provided the artist with a wealth of formal possibilities that he could incorporate into his art.