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Edouard Vuillard

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Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer




Edouard Vuillard (France, 1868–1940)
Madame Hessel and Lulu in the Dining Room at the Chateau des Clayes
(Madame Hessel et Lulu dans la salle a manger des Clayes), c. 1935-38
Pastel on paper
30 5/8 x 31 5/8 in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000


Images of women and children in domestic interiors held ongoing interest for Édouard Vuillard, although he remained a lifelong bachelor. His close friend, confidant, and rumored lover, Lucy Hessel, became one of his favorite muses. This large pastel depicts Lucy and her daughter Lulu in the Château des Clayes, a home the Hessels purchased in 1925 outside of Paris and near Versailles. Lucy’s husband, Jos, was a partner in the prominent firm Bernheim-Jeune that represented Vuillard and much of the French avant-garde of the day, and the château interior, decorated with modern art, attests to the family’s livelihood. The décor also speaks to Vuillard’s earnest belief in the creative bond between the fine and applied arts and to his long association with mural projects, which were designed to decorate and beautify modern interiors. During Vuillard’s affiliation with Les Nabis, he developed an appreciation for pattern and color as the primary means of organizing a composition, and this pastel testifies to the longevity of those interests. Like his earlier work, much of this pastel is dominated by relatively unmodulated fields of color, yellow and peach in this case, which are broken only by the dark, sketchy lines used to define the figures and objects of the interior. After 1900 he worked on a larger scale and created a greater sense of recessional space. Vuillard clearly relished in this interior and others, a tendency he shared with his colleague Pierre Bonnard, and his bright, rich colors create an inviting mood of elegance and intimacy.