Edouard VUILLARD (Cuiseaux 1868 - La Baule 1940)
Portrait of Jean Reiss
Pastel on buff paper, laid down on board.
Signed and dedicated pour Lucy / E Vuillard at the lower right.
390 x 342 mm. (15 3/8 x 13 1/2 in.)
Edouard Vuillard was, as one scholar has written, ‘in many ways the supreme graphic artist among the Nabis. He drew throughout his life, indeed daily...’ From around 1900 onwards the artist used mainly pastel for his drawings, and soon came to master the subtlety and vibrancy of this challenging medium. As the critic and art historian Claude Roger-Marx wrote, in one of the first monographs on the artist, ‘Vuillard often found expression by means of pastels’, and indeed he made more extensive use of the medium than perhaps any French artist since Degas in the previous generation. Pastel was to become an essential part of Vuillard’s working process until the end of his career, used for landscape and figure studies, compositional drawings and still-life subjects, as well as in preparatory studies for portraits.
The subject of this charming portrait, executed in 1915, is Jean Reiss, a nephew of Vuillard’s close friend and muse Lucy Hessel. Depicted wearing a marinière, or sailor suit, the young Jean appears lost in thought, and oblivious to the artist drawing him. Another pastel portrait of Jean Reiss of the same date but of somewhat smaller dimensions, is in a private collection in Canada.
The present portrait was given by Vuillard to Lucy Hessel on the 21st of April 1915, and has remained in the collection of her descendants until recently.
Presented by the artist to Lucy Hessel, Paris, in April 1915
By descent to her adopted daughter, Lucie (Lulu) Grandjean-Hessel (Mme. Jacques Arpels), Paris
Thence by descent.
Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval, Vuillard: The Inexhaustible Glance. Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, Milan, 2003, Vol.III, p.1265, no.X-190 (where dated 1915).