Édouard Vuillard (French, 18681940)
Oil on canvas; 26 3/4 x 80 1/2 in. (67.9 x 204.5 cm)
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Partial Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 2000 (2000.93.2)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
In 1895, Thadée and Misia Natanson commissioned from Vuillard a series of five decorative panels. Collectively known as Album, they took the title of the largest of the paintings, in which a portfolio or album is the center of attention. Languid women suspended in sumptuous, flower-filled interiors are the subject of all five paintings, which are of various sizes. Figures and objects blend in a profusion of patterns, and their closely ranged tonalities of earthy browns, burgundies, and yellows evoke tapestries.
The panels' unusual character matched that of the Natansons' apartment on rue Saint-Florentin, just off the place de la Concorde, which consisted of a large open space adjoined by several small alcove areas. Its unconventional décor reflected Misia's taste, which was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. Also called the "Annex," the apartment often served as an alternative office for the artists and writers who contributed to Thadée's lively avant-garde journal, La Revue Blanche; among them were Claude Debussy, Léon Blum, Stéphane Mallarmé, and André Gide. The evocative Symbolist qualities of Mallarmé's poetry and Debussy's music also find echoes in Vuillard's five panels.