I recently visited a show at the Andrew Krep Gallery, in Chelsea, titled, “‘Interiors’: Pierre Bonnard, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, William Copley, Édouard Vuillard” The show juxtaposed several styles and decades of art history by exploring the evolution of personal space, decorative wallpaper, and intimacy. The press release from the gallery explains, “The show highlights the rich optical and visual layers and patterning consistent in each of the artists’ work, depicting interior spaces full of feeling, psychological depth and a sense of remembrance – a domestic hedonism, or meditations on the nature of time, perception and memory. ” The exhibition included some surrealist details, some impressionist strokes, and a lot of rooms. Often everyday objects in our home accumulate into accidental still lifes – these interior spaces show a psychological snapshot of both an artist and his/her life. Above all, the show allows the viewer to realize it is OK to mix centuries – the 19th century can converse with the year 2012 easily. French windows and ikea furniture can match.
Pierre Bonnard, The Breakfast Room, 1925, Oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 42 1/2 in (65.4 x 108 cm) & (wallpaper), Marc Camille Chaimowicz, 2011, Non-woven paper, Image Courtesy Andrew Kreps Gallery
In my humble opinion, no artist understand the importance of monotonous interior life quite like Jean-Édouard Vuillard (perhaps also Giorgio Morandi, but we can save his obsessive bottle painting for another post). Vuillard (November 11, 1868 – June 21, 1940) was a French painter and printmaker associated with the artist collective called The Nabis. This avant-garde group was named for the Hebrew word for “prophet”. They believed they could revitalize modern art much like the prophets inspired people from the biblical days. The group did not just work with canvas, they often extolled and designed wall decoration, and also produced posters, prints, book illustration, textiles, and furniture.
Édouard Vuillard, Interieur, 1902, Oil on Cardboard, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Meadows Foundation Incorporated
Édouard Vuillard, Interieur a la Table à Ouvrage, 1893
In his paintings Vuillard depicted mostly interiors, intricate patterns, streets, and gardens. The patterns of a tablecloth, of a woman’s dress, and of wall coverings intermingled to create a beautifully layered piece. He lived at home with his mother (a dressmaker and Parisian corset maker) and had siblings who visited – most notably his sister. Often my inspiration comes from the outside – wandering streets, stopping into boutiques, and traveling. Yet, Vuillard did not need to leave his home to understand the aesthetics of beauty and to find his animus.
Vuillard was best known for intimate, indoor looks at the private lives of his subjects. These domestic scenes feel “very claustrophobic,” explains the curator of The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Kimberly Jones. She continues. “You can almost feel the walls closing in in some cases and that’s very much intentional. This is the world behind closed doors, an intimate private world that we live but we don’t get to see. So we become a voyeur.”
Édouard Vuillard. Mother and Sister of the Artist. c. 1893. Oil on canvas. 18 1/4 x 22 1/4″ (46.3 x 56.5 cm). Gift of Mrs. Saidie A. May. © 2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. (Can’t you just smell the mothballs?)
Vuillard’s interiors are often described as richly patterned, dizzying, and highly feminine. We are surrounded by bold fabrics, blurred walls, and quiet Sunday scenes. Vuillard, the artist himself one remarked, “I don’t paint portraits,” he said. “I paint people at home.” His heavily decorated rooms define a person, his stokes create a soothing rhythm for the eye (even though sometimes they are depicting SHARP geometric designs), and his understanding of fashion (both interior and physical) as a psychological delinieation, is why I believe his interiors are so powerful.
Vuillard’s Room at the Château des Clayes, c. 1932, Distemper on paper, mounted on canvas, 30 5/8 x 39 7/16 in. (77.8 x 100.2 cm), Signed, l.r.: “E. Vuillard”, Gift of Mary and Leigh Block, 1973.337, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
After reading this blog post you have now become familiar with “Intimism”! Bravo! Yippee! This is a variety of late 19th- and early 20th-century painting which intensely explores domestic interiors as subject matter.
Clashing patterns = matching patterns. A richly patterned and layered room ala Vuillard. Found via Better Homes & Gardens, HERE.
Un Bisou Collection Wallpaper. Feminine and delicate. Here, actually used as a neutral “paint” color. Don’t be afraid of pattern and layering! Image found HERE.
Eijffinger wallaper – perfect for your afternoon tea service! Hello pastel table. Image found HERE.
Grand Gala Wallpaper. Although this room is not nearly cluttered enough to be a Vuillard. Image found HERE.
Living with patterns is as easy as finding one common color in all of your fabrics. Here it is a light, almost Robin’s Egg Blue with accented grey tones. Image found HERE.