Four Short Essays on Vuillard


His mother was the acknowledged muse of Edouard Vuillard’s art. She occupies the same central place in her son’s work as Bonnard’s wife in his. The old woman potters around, cooks, and most often, sews; the younger one bathes, is perpetually au toilette. The vision of these two Nabi painters, friends throughout life, returns again and again to the domestic image of one woman, the ideal point of reference for their view of society—and more, too, the emotional focus of their humanity as artists. Bonnard shows her most typically in the tub, half levitated by the water and adrift in a phosphorous gas of shifting hues. Far from being a specific object of desire, the woman is the most recessed and ill-defined image in the composition. One is made to feel that her consciousness of her body has gotten past the skin and suffused the room, as if with some fabulous reverie of the senses.

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