Landmark Vuillard exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Rather than sticking to his traditional oeuvre, the show demonstrates how Vuillard embraced stylistic risk-taking and the avant-garde

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This is the largest exhibition (15 May-24 August) of Édouard Vuillard’s work since the artist himself curated a retrospective at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris in 1938. By that late stage in his long career Vuillard (1868-1940) had become a pillar of the French artistic establishment, but this had not always been the case. As a member of the Nabis along with Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis, Vuillard was at the forefront of Synthesist experiments in line and colour and was very much part of the French Avant-garde. Such paradox was always present in Vuillard’s art, and, in addition to the modernising impact of Japanese prints, his innovations were made with an enduring respect for French painting of the 17th century, Dutch interiors and the still-lifes of Chardin. Entranced by the glamour of the theatre, Vuillard cut his teeth on set design in the early 1890s, while his own canvases explored scenes from the lives of the petit-bourgeois society from which he himself had come. In 1894 Vuillard was commissioned by Alexandre Natanson, co-founder of La Revue Blanche, to paint “The public gardens” (above), a series of nine panels, that was one of his greatest decorative works, and is almost entirely reassembled for this exhibition. Covering all bases, curator Guy Cogeval has included many photographs from Vuillard’s own large collection.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Édouard Vuillard; post-Impressionist master'

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