- Edouard Vuillard
- La Partie de plaisir
- Signed E. Vuillard (lower right)
- Gouache and distemper on board
- 29 by 30 1/4 in.
- 73.6 by 76.8 cm
Georges Maratier, Paris
Dr. Walter Hadorn, Bern (acquired from the above in 1946)
Galerie Odermatt-Cazeau, Paris
Makuko Partners in Art, Tokyo
Porche Museum, Hakone
Paris, Georges Maratier, Quelques toiles sur l'élégance féminine dans la peinture, 1943 or 1946, no. 75 (titled La Partie fine)
La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bonnard, Vuillard, ... Vallotton, 1946, no. 39
Bern, Kunsthalle, Ecole de Paris, 1946, no. 141
Basel, Kunsthalle, Edouard Vuillard, 1949, no. 15 (titled Au café)
Bern, Kunsthalle, Die Maler der Revue Blanche. Toulouse-Lautrec und die Nabis, 1951, no. 182 (titled La Partie fine)
Bern, Kunsthalle, Europäische Kunst aus Berner Privatbesitz, 1953, no. 142
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Französische Malerei des 19 und 20 Jahrhunderts,1959, no. 93
Geneva, Jan Krugier, Les Nabis, 1969, no. 90, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Sammlung Hadorn, 1977, no. 133, illustrated in color (titled La Partie fine)
Tokyo, Parthénon Tama; Niigata, Daiwa; Osaka, Navio Museum & Shimonoseki, Municipal Museum, Gauguin et les Nabis, 1990-91, no. XVII-1, illustrated in color in the catalogue
André Chastel, Vuillard. 1868-1940, Paris, 1946, illustrated in color p. 40 (tlted Au café and dated 1898)
André Chastel, "Vuillard," Art News Annual, 23, New York, 1954, illustrated in color p. 29
Kunstkalender Berner Allgemeine, Berner Leben, December 30, 1978, illustrated in color
Anne Georges, Symbolisme et décor, Vuillard, 1888-1905, doctoral dissertation, Paris, 1982, p. 77
Jean Clay, Comprendre l'impressionnisme, Paris, 1984, illustrated in color p. 92
Émile Daniel, Vuillard, l'espace de l'intimité, doctoral dissertation, Institut d'Art et d'Archéologie, Paris, 1984, pp. 129 & 134, illustrated fig. 47
Patricia Ciaffa, The Portraits of Édouard Vuillard, Ann Arbor, 1985, pp. 130-131 & 136, illustrated fig. 40
Georges Bernier, La Revue blanche, Paris, 1991, illustrated in color p. 69
Antoine Salomon & Guy Cogeval, Vuillard, The Inexhaustible Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, vol. I, Milan, 2003, V-99, illustrated in color p. 440
Gilded by the sharp beams of electric lights, Vuillard's scene of this closely-knit group brims with the drama and elegance of belle epoque café society. By the late 1890s when this picture was completed, depictions of café life had been ingrained in the collective consciousness as the domain of the Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, including Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. But Vuillard has risen to the challenge of confronting these venerable precedents with his reinterpretation of the theme for this work and reintroduces the subject to a new generation. His success with the present composition is due largely to his sensitivity and insight to the human condition -- two skills that are essential for an artist's mastery of the genre. Later in his career, Vuillard would take on a number of portrait commissions, mostly to avoid the suggestions of dealers who demanded saleable work. But, by and large, it was the artist's unmatched aesthetic and talent in his genre scenes from the 1890s that kept his pictures well in demand among the beau monde in the early 20th century. Indeed, the present work can be considered a premier example of why he earned such an esteemed reputation among his contemporaries.
Gatherings at a lunch or dinner table were common motifs among the Nabis artists, and the present work exploits beautifully the stylistic possibilities of this theme. This subject afforded Vuillard the chance to explore several aesthetic elements all at once. Here, for example, he presents us with a single interpretation of varying light sources and overlapping forms in a texturally-rich interior setting. The rich tonal contrasts and block coloration call to mind the early works of Gauguin, whose influence on the Nabis was significant. As Richard Shone pointed out in his study of the Nabis, Claude Monet's 1868-69 composition, The Dinner, set an important precedent for these intimiste scenes. "But where Vallatton or Paul Signac, the Pointillist contemporary of the Nabis, might introduce the sharp flavor of social or psychological observation, Bonnard and Vuillard are more concerned with gesture, odd formal relations, and the diverse coloristic feast ...." (R. Shone, The Janice H. Levin Collection of French Art (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2003, p. 118).
While the sitters in the present work have not been identified, it can be presumed that they were probably members of Vuillard's intimate circle, including Thadée and Misia Natanson, who were both featured frequently in Vuillard's compositions of this era. The first owner of record of the present work was the dealer Georges Maratier, who is perhaps best known for his close friendship with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. It was then acquired by Dr. Walter Hadorn, professor of Internal Medicine at University of Bern in Switzerland, whose collection included other works by the artist, as well as the Fauves.