Monday, July 30, 2012

Edouard Vuillard: The Mirror as a Motif at the Jewish Museum

Mirrors as Reflection of Self
by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt
Edouard Vuillard
Self-Portrait with Waroquy, 1889
Who was Edouard Vuillard? Clearly influenced by the impressionists who came before him, Vuillard associated himself with a group of artists knows as the Nabis who favored decorative, emotionally charged paintings such as those by Gauguin. The exhibition currently on display at the Jewish Museum starts off with a self-portrait. The artist is shown with a male friend. Unusual to show a self portrait with another figure, the artist was clearly making a statement about himself and most likely his sexual orientation. The artist ever married, and lived with his mother until her death. The portrait is a reflection in a mirror which one can only tell by the reflection of the bottle in the lower right corner of the picture space. A mirror is a motif that repeats often as a visual device throughout Vuillard's works.

Edouard Vuillard
Lucy Hessel Reading, 1913
In another work by Vuillard, we are shown an intimate "portrait" f his friend Lucy Hessel in her bedroom. This scene again is unusual as depicting a married woman in her bedroom could be seen as sexual and scandalous in 1913, yet Madam Hessel is not shown sexualized so again Vuillard is making a statement about his relationship with his friendship to her as platonic. She is shown studying books which makes a statement about her intellectual interests and the mirror in the upper left corner reflects the garden in a window. This painting bears a striking resemblance to Mary Cassatt's woman writing letter, in the color of the dress, the pose of the woman, and the flattened Japanese like picture space.

Mary Cassatt
A fun game to play with when you go to this exhibit whether with a bored adult or young child is to see how many mirrors you can count in the exhibition. There are fifty artworks in this exhibition, how many include mirrors??

Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940 
The Jewish Museum
May 04, 2012 - September 23, 2012

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: check out all these beautiful mirrors for sale on etsy