Les deux roses et la boite de pastels
Oil on canvas: 13.1(h) x 16.3(w) in / 33.3(h) x 41.3(w) cm
Signed lower right
Cuiseaux, Saône-et-Loire 1868 - 1940 La Baule near Saint-Nazaire
Ref: BZ 118
Les deux roses et la boite de pastels
Signed lower right
Oil on canvas: 13 1/8 x 16¼ in / 33.3 x 41.3 cm
Frame Size: 18½ x 22 x 3 inches
Painted circa 1903-4
Probably Georges Rasamat, Paris (his collector’s stamp on the reverse);
from whom acquired by Jos Hessel
Private collector, Paris;
from whom acquired by a private collector, Europe
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Exposition E Vuillard, 1938, p.37, no.213 (as Rose rouge et rose rose dans un vase, lent by Jos Hessel)
Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval, Vuillard, The Inexhaustible Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, vol. II, Paris 2003, p.1090, no.IX-138, illus. (dated c.1910(?))
Matias Chivot has confirmed that this painting will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the catalogue raisonné of the work of Edouard Vuillard
Edouard Vuillard’s painting is steeped in the intimisme of domestic life. As a student copying paintings in the Louvre, his preferred subjects were seventeenth century Dutch interiors and the still lifes of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Like John Constable with his Stour valley landscapes, Vuillard’s imagination was set free by the familiar. In 1889 he joined the Nabis (‘Prophets’), a group of artists including Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard, who experimented with Synthetism, which prized memory rather than direct observation, simple blocks of colour and the deliberate focus on the two-dimensional picture plane. Vuillard’s paintings of the 1890s frequently feature his dressmaker sister and mother in their modest Parisian home. Works such as Interior, the dressmaking room, 1893 (private collection, USA) employ a dark palette, with emphasis on simplification and pattern-making influenced by Japanese prints.
By around 1903-4, when Vuillard painted Les deux roses et la boîte de pastels, he had moved away from the Synthetist style and introduced more space into his paintings, while retaining a love of pattern and a richly decorative palette. He had segued into the haut bourgeois world of Jos Hessel, a partner in the art dealing firm of Bernheim-Jeune, with whom he began exhibiting in 1900. From 1901 until the First World War Vuillard spent summers in Normandy and Brittany with Hessel and his wife Lucy, who became his mistress and muse.
This painting was dated c.1910 (with a question mark) in the Vuillard catalogue raisonné. Matias Chivot, who is compiling a supplement to the catalogue, considers that it dates from c.1903-4, citing the rich impasto of the roses as typical of Vuillard’s handling at this period. It exudes the air of sophisticated contentment characteristic of Vuillard’s paintings of interiors made in the first years of the twentieth century. He concentrates on the corner of a table with a few carefully-placed objects. In the foreground is a simple ceramic jug with the pink and the red rose. Vuillard delights in the complexity of the rose petals just as much as does Renoir. Their exuberance is contrasted by the geometric lines of the pastel box balanced upon a wooden case and the box to the left. The composition is unified by a dense interweaving of marbled brushwork which conjures up the atmosphere of the room and the mystery of light. Shapes dissolve into textured shadows, while vivid points of colour swim to the surface: the end of a bright green pastel; the rose petals; a swathe of golden glaze on a vase. Vuillard juxtaposes the tools of his profession – the pastel box – with the domestic detail of the vase of roses, symbol of a well-ordered household presided over by a female hand, perhaps an oblique reference to Lucy Hessel.
As Matias Chivot notes, the reverse of the canvas has the collector’s stamp of Georges Rasamat, who had a close connection with the Ballets Russes, which took Paris by storm in 1909. Rasamat was the art agent for the Ballets Russes’ designer Léon Bakst. Vuillard may have met Rasamat through his friend Misia Sert at her celebrated salons at the Hôtel Meurice. Les deux roses et la boîte de pastels was later owned by Jos Hessel and was lent by him to the Vuillard retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris in 1938, during the artist’s lifetime.
Cuiseaux, Saône-et-Loire 1868 – 1940 La Baule near Saint-Nazaire
Edouard Vuillard was born in Cuiseaux in 1868, the son of Honoré Vuillard, a Captain in the Marine Infantry, and his wife Marie Michaud, who came from a family of textile manufacturers. In 1877 the family moved to Paris, where Edouard attended the prestigious Lycée Condorcet, along with his friends and future artists Kerr-Xavier Roussel and Maurice Denis. He studied at the Académie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme, as well as making copies of paintings in the Louvre, particularly seventeenth century Dutch interiors and the still lifes of Chardin.
In 1889 Vuillard joined the Nabis (‘Prophets’), a group of artists including Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Pierre Bonnard, who experimented with Synthetism, which prized memory rather than direct observation, simple blocks of colour and the deliberate focus on the two-dimensional picture plane. Throughout the 1890s Vuillard painted domestic scenes, frequently featuring his dressmaker sister and mother in their modest Parisian apartment. He used a dark palette, with emphasis on simplification and flat pattern-making influenced by Japanese prints. Vuillard was a keen theatre-goer and the mysterious relationships in these works reflect his exposure to the plays of Maeterlinck and Ibsen.
Vuillard was taken into the haut bourgeois world of Thadée Natanson, Editor-in-Chief of the Revue Blanche, and his flamboyant wife Misia. In 1894 he was commissioned by Thadée’s brother Alexandre Natanson to execute nine panels on the theme of Public gardens for his mansion in the Avenue du Bois (now scattered between the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX and the Musée d’Art Moderne, Brussels). In 1900 Vuillard began exhibiting with Bernheim-Jeune. From 1901 until the First World War he spent summers in Normandy and Brittany with Jos Hessel, a partner in the firm, and his wife Lucy, who became Vuillard’s muse and mistress. Vuillard frequently depicted the interiors of the Hessels’ comfortable homes, still taking a delight in patterns and domestic minutiae, but employing a lighter palette and more three-dimensional space. The Hessels’ circle included actors and playwrights: in 1912 Vuillard received his first commission for a public building, decorations on Classical Comedy and Modern Comedy for the new Comédie des Champs-Elysées. He was also in demand as a portraitist of the beau monde, portraying his sitters within interiors that expressed their personalities or professions, for example the writer Théodore Duret in his study, 1912 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC).
Vuillard was a war artist in the First World War and painted two panels of assembly-line work at the Lazare-Lévy munitions factory (Musée d’Art Moderne, Troye), where Thadée Natanson was a Director. In 1937 his four portraits of his Nabi friends Roussel, Denis, Bonnard and Maillol were shown at the Exposition Internationale and bought by the City of Paris (Petit Palais, Paris). A final major project was the huge mural (in situ) for the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Vuillard was elected to the Institut de France in 1937 and a major retrospective of his work was held at the Pavillon de Marsan in Paris the following year. He fled Paris upon the Nazi invasion and died in La Baule near Saint-Nazaire on 21st June 1940.
 Salomon and Cogeval, op. cit., vol. I, p.291, no.IV-116, illus. in colour.
 See Matias Chivot’s photo certificate.