Edouard Vuillard, Misia and Vallotton at Villeneuve, 1899, oil on cardboard. Collection of William Kelly Simpson.
As you can see from the Jewish Museum’s rich retrospective of his pictures, Edouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940) was obsessed by fractured patterns. Clothing in figured fabric and décor vie for attention with the people represented. Dresses, wallpaper, exuberant plants refusing to confirm that they’re indoors or out, and secondary human figures appearing as half-visible ghosts charge the viewer’s retinae and create a haunting—even ominous—mood of instability. In the picture above, the man and woman ignore each other’s presence, while the man’s head becomes part of the painting behind him and the woman’s pet dog, begging for a treat, nearly disappears against the rambunctious checkerboard of her dress. Vuillard gets his showing at the Jewish Museum because he was befriended by powerful Jewish art enthusiasts in the Paris of his day. Could there be any connection, I wonder, between his hallucinatory view of the world and the mystical aspects of the Jewish faith?
Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940 / The Jewish Museum, NYC / May 4 – September 23, 2012
© 2012 Tobi Tobias