'Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet' Is Mystery Mixed With Beauty at the Met

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • December 02, 2019

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Félix Vallotton (Swiss, 1865–1925). The Visit, 1899. Gouache on cardboard, 21 7/8 x 34 1/4 in. (55.5 x 87 cm). Kunsthaus Zürich. Acquired 1909, © Kunsthaus Zürich

In darkly suggestive paintings and graphically spare prints, Félix Vallotton (1865–1925) chronicled fin de siècle Paris like no other artist of his generation. He lampooned the bourgeoisie with acerbic wit and laid bare the urban turmoil of a society in flux. Swiss born and Paris educated, Vallotton was a highly original artist whose diverse talents have never been fully recognized. In the first U.S. exhibition of his work in nearly 30 years, Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet—now through January 26, 2020 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art—profiles pivotal moments in the artist’s career as a painter and printmaker through some 80 works of art from more than two dozen lenders. His compelling portraits, interiors, still lifes, and landscapes engage us in their comedy and complexity.

Félix Vallotton (Swiss, 1865–1925). Moonlight (Clair de lune), 1895. Oil on canvas. 27 x 41 cm. Musée d'Orsay. © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski.

Highlights of the exhibition include Vallotton’s trenchant woodcuts of the 1890s, prints that built his reputation in the graphic arts while boldly messaging his anarchist politics. For the first time, Vallotton’s portrait of the legendary American collector Gertrude Stein will be displayed alongside Picasso’s famous painting of this formidable woman, which is in The Met collection. It was while posing for Picasso that Stein introduced him to Vallotton. Vallotton then painted her portrait.

Arriving in Paris at the age of 16, Vallotton attended the Académie Julian, where he trained under the painters Jules Lefèbvre and Gustave Boulanger. Vallatton was a keen observer of urban life, and his illustrations proliferated in literary magazines and left-wing journals through the 1890s. While creating illustrations for the avant-garde journal La Revue Blanche, he met members of the Nabi circle, Bonnard and Vuillard in particular. Vallotton’s art of the mid-1890s aligned with their decorative patterning of form and informal technique of painting on cardboard.

Félix Vallotton (Swiss, 1865–1925). Intimacies V: Money (Intimités V: L'Argent), 1898. Woodcut on paper. 25 x 32.3 cm. Musée d’art et d‘histoire, Geneva; Cabinet d’arts graphiques. Gift of Lucien Archinard. © Musées d’art et d’histoire, Ville de Genève. Photography: Cabinet d'arts graphiques.

While he spared no barbs satirizing the French bourgeoisie, Vallotton married into their ranks in 1899, joining the famed Bernheim-Jeune family of art dealers. Marriage to Gabrielle Rodriques-Enriques brought financial security and an end to printmaking as an essential source of revenue. Thereafter, Vallotton devoted himself exclusively to painting, dividing his time between winters in Paris and summers in Normandy with Gabrielle and her family.

Prior to its showing at The Met, the exhibition was on view at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (June 30–September 29, 2019). A catalogue published by the Royal Academy accompanies the exhibition. The book is available for purchase in The Met Store ($45).

More info on The Met website.


Tags: european art

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