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Edouard Vuillard 1868 - 1940:

Edouard Vuillard was born on November 11, 1868, at Cuisseaux in the Saone-et-Loire department of France. When he was nine his family moved to Paris. His father, a retired military officer, died in 1883. His mother who came from a family of textile designers, went into the dressmaking trade to support her children. Such an environment must have nurtured Vuillard's sensuous awareness of patterns and textures. He lived with his mother until her death in 1928.



Vuillard was educated, like Toulouse-Lautrec, at the Lycee Condorcet in Paris, where he met Ker Xavier Roussel, who married his sister, and Maurice Denis. In 1886, Vuillard went on, with Roussel, to study painting at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the academic Jean Leon Gerome. Two years later he was working with Denis, his lifelong friend Pierre Bonnard, and Paul Serusier at the Academie Julian.

That year, 1888, Serusier met Gauguin at Pont-Aven in Brittany and later brought back with him a painting, The Talisman, of an entirely new type, the result of taking literally Gauguin's advice to paint in unmodulated, unshaded, unadulterated colors. Out of Serusier's enthusiasm a group called the Nabis, after the Hebrew for "Prophets", was formed. Vuillard, Bonnard, Denis, and Roussel all became members.

The Nabi painters rejected naturalism and, by implication, Impressionism, in favor of pure design and color. Art, they felt, was more important than nature. Their subject matter and theories were allied to those of the Symbolist writers and poets, such as Stephane Mallarme, an acquaintance of Vuillard. The group held ritual dinners and discussions and refered to Serusier's studio as "The Temple."

In 1891 Vuillard shared a studio with Bonnard and Denis. In the same year he contributed to the exhibition of Impressionist and Symbolist painters with which the art dealer Le Barc de Boutteville opened a new Paris gallery. Vuillard focused his attention upon the decorative element of painting, producing warm, colorful surfaces that did not attempt to give the illusion of depth. The freedom with which he treated natural forms in the service of design was even greater than that of Japanese prints that inspired him. But he also bore in mind the firm basic structure of these woodcuts, planning his own work in planes, verticals, and horizontals, within which the patterns could flow.

In 1891 the Symbolist "La Revue Blanche" published lithographs by Vuillard, and he went on to design several covers and posters for it; he also designed murals for one of its founders. He did costumes and sets for the Theatre de l'Oeuvre in 1893, sets and panels that included a scene from Moliere's "Le Malade Imaginaire" for the Comedie des Champs-Elysees in 1913, decorations for the Palais de Chillot in 1937 and, in 1939, decorations, one representing Peace, for the League of Nations in Geneva.

With Bonnard, Vuillard visited Hamburg in 1905, England and Holland in 1913. In 1908 he taught at an academy founded by the widow of Paul Ranson, also a Nabi. After 1900, however, their corporate momentum gone, the Nabis disintegrated. Vuillard himself grew closer to the Impressionism that the Nabis had rejected. His work, less colorful and less inventive, consisted now of domestic scenes. He and Bonnard, whose style underwent a similar change, became known as the Intimistes.

For some years Vuillard was almost completely out of the public eye, but in 1936 he showed with other former Nabis, and in 1938 a Vuillard retrospective exhibition in Paris revived interest in him. The part played by his pre-Intimiste style in the emergence of Art Nouveau was important, He died on June 21, 1940, at La Baule on the Brittany coast.

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