Last week, I wrote a quick post dedicated to Pierre Bonnard in celebration of his birthday. It’s difficult to mention Bonnard without talking about his fellow artist and member of Les Nabis, Edouard Vuillard. His paintings are beautifully composed, using interesting color combinations and staccato brush strokes. But what really makes Vuillard one of my favorite painters is his love of painting textiles!
Looking at Vuillard’s work, you’ll quickly see he was fascinated by fabrics and their relation to the body. A woman wearing a floral pattern dress catches your eye in the first composition. She’s in a room of workers. Who is she? What is she doing? Or maybe you prefer Madame Bonnard. Did she just purchased a new hat? Look at how the fabric is starched and piled high on the hat, and the way her hair looks a bit loose on the sides.
Most of this attention to textiles was innate to Vuillard. He was the son of a dressmaker, and grew up around sumptuous fabrics and vivid patterns required to make fashionable dresses.
His interest in textiles spilled over into depicting interiors. As Vuillard’s career matured, he became increasingly interested in the patterns and textures of fabrics, wallpapers and carpets. By looking at his works, we can have a small insight into life at the time. Look at Jane Redouart: a silk dress adorned with flowers drapes over her lap onto a leopard skin pillow. Sheer curtains diffuse the ambient light while framing the doorway cloaked in red velvet. And the real icing on the cake? There is a mirror along the back wall, showing Redouart’s puppy staring at her adoringly.
If there wasn’t enough fashion present in Vuillard’s paintings, he was commissioned to paint the portraits of couturiere Jeanne Lanvin and her daughter the Comtesse de Polignac. What a treat to see Mme. Lanvin working at her desk! Sketching and reviewing concepts for a collection, you can see a drawer full of fabric and embroideries behind her, tucked away on metal shelves. To her right is another work area with pencils and pens. She looks a bit tired, giving us a little smirk as she looks up from her work. Her head tilts slightly to the left, while her dog watches you from beneath the desk and tilts his head in the opposite direction.