- Edouard Vuillard
- La mère de Vuillard en profil
Stamped with the signature (lower right)
Oil on canvas laid down on board
- 13 by 14 7/8 in.
- 33 by 37.6 cm
K.X. Roussel (brother-in-law of the artist)
Jacques Roussel, Paris
Wildenstein & Co., New York (acquired from the above)
Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above on May 8, 1952)
Bern, Kunsthalle, Edouard Vuillard, Alexander Müllegg, 1946, no. 22
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Exposition Vuilllard, 1948, no. 44 (as dating from 1905)
London, Wildenstein & Co., Edouard Vuillard, 1948, no. 24 (as dating from 1905)
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Exhibition of Paintings by Pierre Bonnard and Eduard Vuillard, 1948, no. 83
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Autour de 1900, 1950, no. 186 (as dating from 1905)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Edouard Vuillard, 1954
London, The Tate Gallery, The John Jay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, no. 64
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Art Institute of Chicago, Edouard Vuillard, 1971-72, no. 47
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1983, no. 33
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts; Brooklyn Museum; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, The Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard, 1989-90, no. 9
John Rewald, "French Paintings in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney," Connoisseur, London, March 1956, illustrated p. 13
Antoine Salomon and Guy Cojeval, Vuillard, The Inexhaustible Glance, vol. II, Paris, 2003, no. VII-24, illustrated p. 555
La mère de Vuillard en profil is one of many portraits that Vuillard painted of his mother, Marie Justine Alexandrine Michaud, whom he called his muse. Following the death of her husband in 1883, Mme. Vuillard moved her corset-making shop to her home, where Vuillard lived with her until her death in 1928. Mme Vuillard’s corset atelier was the focus of the artist’s household from 1879 until 1898, the year that the present work was most likely painted.
According to Elizabeth Wynne Easton, “As early as November 1888 Vuillard filled a page of his journal with scenes of women working by lamplight around a table. Although these images were not transformed into paintings until a few years later, they nonetheless were a compelling subject for him from the time he began to think of himself as an artist. It is perhaps no coincidence that on the same journal page Vuillard made reference to the works in the Louvre of Jan Steen and Chardin and included a sketch of a painting by Johannes Vermeer. The intimate and sometimes disturbing depictions of daily life that characterize the works of these Dutch masters and the quiet power of Chardins’s images of governesses and serving maids form the art historical background to Vuillard’s scenes of women at work in his mother’s atelier” (The Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard, p. 26).
The sincerity and complexity of La mère de Vuillard en profil distinguishes itself from other portraits by Vuillard. Instead of depicting his mother sewing or in another domestic role, Mme. Vuillard has been captured at rest. In many portraits, Vuillard condenses the physical attributes of his sitters to gestured brushstrokes that give an idea of the sitter’s identity. In contrast, the sensitivity with which Vuillard has depicted his mother is indeed touching. Her cheeks are full and colorful, her persona dignified. Mme. Vuillard’s downward gaze is punctuated by her delicate spectacles. Of particular interest are the areas of the canvas the artist decided not to paint. The foliate wallpaper is delineated by sparse paint strokes on the otherwise primed canvas. Mme. Vuillard’s jabot is defined by parallel lines that recede into spare irregular brushstrokes. In keeping with the Nabis tenets of painting, the viewer’s visual experience is heightened by the bold application of black denoting the blouse, sleeves and collar. Two flat planes of dark orange, the throw on the chair back, flank the sitter’s head. This highly personal portrait is a poignant tribute to the artist's consummate supporter and muse.
Fig. 1, Photograph of the artist's mother in 1898-99 at Rue des Batignolles
Fig. 2, Johannes Vermeer, Young Girl Sleeping, 1657, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 3, Jeane-Bapsite-Siméon Chardin, The Diligent Mother, 1740, Louvre, Paris