The Dressing-Room, Madame Hessel Reading at Amfréville | 1906 | Edouard Vuillard
I am having so much fun with these Books in Art posts! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. If you aren't following me on Instagram, please do! We're having a lot of fun over there. I had such great comments on my post asking about the expression on Madame Francois Buron's face...your responses were hilarious!
A little about the artist:
Edouard Vuillard is known for giving equal attention to the subjects and objects in his paintings. "I don't do portraits," Vuillard once said. "I paint people in their surroundings." He was sometimes considered an "Intimist" or a painter who focused on the intimate interior scenes of domestic life. Listen to this short (just under 8 minutes) NPR recording for more information about Vuillard and his muses:
Your response to the painting:
Before I reveal too much information about the painting, I want you to take a look at it and record your reactions, thoughts, and questions. Let's go through this simple exercise before we move on.
In the NPR recording above, Vuillard's interiors are described as “Claustrophobic with pattern" and that“there are people in his rooms but you have to hunt for them.” Keeping this in mind, I want to pay special attention to the room that Vuillard painted in addition to the subject he chose.
Regarding the interior:
- Tell me about the room in this painting.
- What objects can you identify?
- What visual cues, besides the title of the painting, do you have that helps you identify what room Madame Hessel is in?
- Is the room a formal or informal space?
- What words would you use to describe the mood of this space?
- What patterns do you see in the interior decor?
- What is the woman's relationship to the room?
Regarding the subject:
- Tell me about the woman in this painting.
- What do you think the woman is thinking or doing?
- What do you think is happening in this painting?
- What words would you use to describe Madame Hessel's mood?
- How would you describe the relationship between Vuillard (the painter) and Madame Hessel (the subject)?
- What do you think might be the message or theme of this painting?
A little about the subject:
Lucy Hessel was the wife of Jos Hessel, Edourard Vuillard's art dealer. Vuillard and Hessel maintained an intimate, if sometimes tumultuous, relationship for 40 years. This apparently did not upset Jos Hessel, which seems unusual to me. Some of their more intimate interactions, as revealed in photographs and paintings, occurred in Amfréville. It was said that Lucy was second only to the artist's mother, whom he lived with until her death (Vuillard was 60 years old.)
"The most personal images capture her in unguarded moments, like the photos of her in Amfréville, seen above. In the photo at left, Lucy is reclining in a chair outdoors, her eyes meeting those of her admirer. In the photo at right, she leans against a haystack. This is an intimate moment between Lucy and Vuillard–they are seated so close together that the artist’s foot can be seenright next to Lucy’s leg in the lower right corner of the frame. Tres risqué, non?" - Liza Strekla, A Boy’s Best Friend is His Mother: Misia, Lucy, and Mom in the Lens of Vuillard