Private Lives » The Intimate Interior

The Intimate Interior

The domestic interior was the perfect vehicle for the Nabis to explore their art of privacy. In the late 1800s, the home was considered the cradle of the family, a safe harbor in the dynamic city of Paris that was marked ever more conspicuously by speed and spectacle. The hearth and the lamp became powerful symbols of this enclosed world that was overseen by the femme au foyer (housewife) who cultivated private life. 

Early in their careers, these artists were praised for their ability to evoke the comforts of interior life and all the emotions it aroused, a talent that earned them the label of intimists. 

This gallery presents what one critic called the “calm and gentle happiness” of the interior, as seen in images of families dining, women sewing, and members of the household enjoying quiet lamplit evenings, while the subsequent gallery explores interiors that are fraught with emotional complexity. 


Pierre Bonnard

French, 1867–1947

Child with Lamp, ca. 1897

Color lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Ella M. Hirsch Fund 41.11.6

The motif of the lamp, so common in Nabi paintings and prints, suggests intimate, cloistered interiors. Although gaslight was ubiquitous in public spaces in Paris, and electric light was increasingly common, most homes in the late 1800s were still lit by candlelight, oil lamps, and the fireplace. By the 1890s, the hearth, stove, and lamp were overused symbols of intimate life popular with many artists. Rather than falling into the hackneyed traps of conventional depictions, the Nabis used the lamplight theme to great effect, layering emotion, absorption, and even humor into their portrayals of domestic life sous la lampe (under the lamp).

[Artwork description: Lithograph on cream paper of a young child playing with toys on a small red table with a lamp. The background consists of of a rose pink color with dark brownish green hatched lines. The light-skinned child with rose pink hair is wearing a white shirt with blue dots. The child grasps the edge of the table with their left hand and rests their right arm on top of the table. The child’s head is tilted to the right and faint, loose brown lines make up the child’s facial features. The child holds red and blue toy stagecoaches. The lamp in front of the child has a dark green cylindrical base and a large dark blue shade that has a cream strip on top with a repeated pattern of dark blue x’s. A round dark green fixture holds the shade at the top and a white pole extends up out of the shade. Red and blue organic lines radiate from the white pole layered over the rose background.]


Family Dining

Sharing a meal with family or close friends was at the heart of domestic life in 19th-century France. Each of the Nabis infused their dining scenes with his own style, sense of humor, and symbolism. They focused not on formal evening meals but on quiet moments between a caregiver and a young child, a solitary diner and her pet, or intergenerational gatherings under a glowing chandelier. They sought to evoke emotions and memories, rather than capture a factual moment in time.


Pierre Bonnard

French, 1867–1947

The Grandmother, from L’Épreuve, 1895

Lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Gift of Diane Davies Burke in honor of Margaret Connolly Ogle 2018.24.1

[Artwork description: Lithograph on cream paper. A grandmother sits at a table with a baby. The grandmother wears a black long-sleeve shirt and has her dark hair pulled into a bun. She leans her right arm across the table in front of the baby. There is an item near her hand. The baby wears a white shirt and sits in a high chair, hands on the table, looking intently towards the grandmother’s hand. The background is loosely sketched black lines that overlap and a gray line borders the lithograph.]


Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868–1940

Motherhood, from the journal Pan, 1896

Color lithograph
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation) p1305V2000

The layered patterns of this interior create a dense, rich environment for this mother-child dining scene. Although their interaction is tender, the multiple perspectives and flattened planes keep the viewer off- balance. The aim is to suggest a narrative rather than directly convey one, and to prompt the viewer to look closely and create their own meaning from the scene.

[Artwork description: The high angle perspective on this color lithograph is looking into a scene where a white woman holds a child on her lap in a dark room next to a brightly colored and patterned table. The piece is dominated by the table and buffet on the left side. The rectangular buffet has an orange, black and white plaid tablecloth and a short stack of dishes on it. This occupies the lower bottom left of the piece. Beyond it is a round table with an abstract tablecloth of white fabric splotched with sage green and navy blue. The table has some dishes set on it and there appears to be a glass pitcher and orange food on three plates. The woman is seated at the table in a full dark dress holding a small child on her lap with her face nuzzled into the child’s head. Their clothes are dark, but their faces and hands are bright white. The woman’s hair is pulled into a bun on the top of her head. The child appears to be holding a white napkin in her hands and has her attention on it. The child is wearing a khaki colored dress and has light blonde hair. The figures and table are in front of a darkened window or a set of french doors. The windows are a dark teal, either closed curtains or looking into a dark night. There is a brown chair on each side of the window in front of khaki colored walls with a hint of patterned wallpaper. The floor streaked with brown and khaki, the same khaki and brown are on the woman and child’s clothing as the floors and the walls.]


Pierre Bonnard

French, 1867–1947

The Checkered Blouse (Madame Claude Terrasse at Age 20), 1892

Oil on canvas
Musée d’Orsay, Paris RF1977-89

The artist’s sister, Andrée Terrasse, is the model for this portrait of a diner with her cat. The geometric grid of her blouse contrasts with the supple shape of her bowed head and the curved neck of the cat, who eyes the last morsel on her plate.

[Artwork description: This portrait of the artist’s sister depicts her sitting at a table, eating a meal, while holding her cat. The most dominant feature is her pink and beige checkered blouse that stretches across the entire midsection of the painting, trailing off both sides of the frame. The figure’s head is bowed, echoing the bend in the cat’s head. Her brown hair is curled on top of her head and disappears off the top of the frame with one large forelock falling over her forehead. Her eyes gaze downwards toward the food in front of her. Her raised right hand clutches a fork that spears her food while her left hand firmly cradles the black and white cat that is extending its paw toward the dish. In the foreground, on the tablecloth, are a goblet and other dishes, including what could be a carafe that’s half-seen on the extreme right side of the frame. Behind the figure is a light brown wooden door with a keyhole visible over the woman’s right shoulder. A thin strip of patterned grayish-green wallpaper appears to the left of the door.]


Pierre Bonnard

French, 1867–1947

The Children’s Meal, 1895

Oil on cardboard, mounted on wood
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of David Allen Devrishian, 1999 1999.180.1

In this family portrait, Bonnard’s mother, at the left, s joined by her daughter, Andrée Terrasse, and two grandsons. Three-year-old Jean attempts to feed himself using an overhand grip on a large spoon, while his younger brother, Charles, regards the viewer with a serene expression. Bonnard was a sensitive observer of the small world of children.

[Artwork description: Oil painting of two women and two young children eating around a table set with fine china. A light-skinned woman with brown hair pulled into a bun wearing a black long-sleeve shirt and pearl earrings sits at the table at the left side of the painting. Her hands rest against a bowl of soup with a tan round object in front of it next to a glass with red liquid. Another round brown object sits to the right with a knife nexts to it. Next to her glass is a large pot of soup. The woman gazes at a young child seated in a wooden chair to her left. The light-skinned child has blonde curly hair and is wearing a blue and white checkered long-sleeve shirt. The child holds a large silver spoon over a bowl of soup, but looks to the left, focused on another item at the edge of the table. Next to the child a light-skinned woman sits in a large chair with yellow upholstery. She wears a long-sleeve black dress and has dark hair pulled into a bun. She holds a light-skinned infant with blonde hair who is wearing a white shirt with puffy sleeves and a white bib with a red ribbon down one side. The woman holds a spoon in the soup with her right hand and has her head bent forward looking at the infant. In front of them is a large clear pitcher that is thick and round at the bottom with a thin neck at the top. Behind the infant is a dark bottle with a cork on top. All of the china on the table is white with blue lines. In the background is a large gray door on the left, a strip of wallpaper in the middle with a green leaf like pattern and a few red spots, and a large wood-framed painting with brown, pink, and cream overlapping strokes.]


Pierre Bonnard

French, 1867–1947

Boy Eating Cherries, 1895

Oil on board
National Gallery of Ireland, Presented, in memory of May Guinness, 1982 NGI.4356

The Bonnard family retreat, Le Clos (the Orchard) was named for the orchards that surrounded their home in southeast France. Every afternoon in the summer, Bonnard’s mother (depicted here) collected masses of ripe fruit in her basket for the family. The portrayal of simple pleasures, such as enjoying fresh cherries, is typical of Bonnard’s work.

[Artwork description: Oil painting depicting a grandmother sitting with her grandson at the dining table with a white table cloth while the child eats cherries. The young boy is the center of the painting. He has light skin and brown curly hair and is wearing a blue and white plaid shirt. He sits on a wooden chair with two horizontal wooden beams and several thin vertical rods. He has a cherry in his lips, holds another in his left hand and looks forward at the other seven cherries on the table. To his right his grandmother, a light-skinned woman with brown and gray hair pulled into a bun wearing a dark long-sleeved shirt. Her hands rest on the table with a white plate with blue spots next to them. Behind them is a cream wooden door. To the right of it is a strip of wallpaper that has green foliage and blue and brown spots. To the right is part of a wooden structure – possibly a cupboard and the edge of a painting frame.]


Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868–1940

Luncheon (Annette and Her Grandmother), 1899

Oil on board
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Nancy F. and Joseph P. Keithley Collection Gift 2020.118

Vuillard adopts a plunging perspective to depict his mother feeding his young niece, Annette. Muted light draws attention to the child’s head and right cheek and the spoon in the grandmother’s right hand. This simple gesture, placed in the center of the square canvas, speaks to the most essential elements in the small picture: the relationship between the girl and her grandmother and the nurturance symbolized by food.

[Artwork description: A tightly cropped, highly patterned painting of a grandmother feeding a small child. The high angle centers the viewer onto the head and face of the small child, she has white skin, with rosy cheeks and blonde hair wearing a highly patterned dress of blue, tan, and gray stripes and spots. She has a grayish bib or covering down the front of the dress and is being fed by an elderly woman with a dress that matches the child. The elderly woman has rosy cheeks and gray hair with her tan hands extended to feed the baby. The baby is sitting on a wooden chair with three open slots on the back and a woven rattan top. The angles are very flat and can be a little disorienting. The chair is atop a brightly colored and patterned rug of pinks, reds and golds. There is a table next to the woman and child with a bright white tablecloth with a pink and red patterned border. There is a plate of food on the table.]


Pierre Bonnard 

French, 1867–1947

The Lamp, about 1899 

Oil on academy board mounted on panel
Collection of the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI; Gift of The Whiting Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Donald E. Johnson 1977.25 

Bonnard adored animals, and cats were welcome companions at his family table. Here, a small tabby joins the artist’s mother, sister, and nephew under the glow of an enormous brass chandelier. The glass fuel reservoir reflects the scene back to the viewer. 

The darkened setting imparts an even greater intimacy than the daylit scenes of Boy Eating Cherries and The Children’s Meal, also in this gallery. 

[Artwork description: Two adults and a child sit around a table filled with food in a dark room. A large lamp in the middle of the table illuminates the painting and a cat sits under it on the table. The large gold lamp has a teal shade with a gold rim that is partially visible. The base is comprised of a gold rod that has a large globe shape at the top that reflects the images of the items on the table and a base of coiled gold with two tentacle-like arms on both sides that curve up and around like the end of a fern leaf. Gold round ornamental decorations top each of the arms. Multiple plates of food sit below the lamp. In the center is a square plate with a brown flat object. Next to it two round objects sit on the mostly white table cloth. To the right is a black wine bottle. A small black and brown calico cat sits with it’s back to the viewer. Behind the cat are two plates and silverware. At the center of the bottom edge of the painting is a platter filled with round orange items and a black wine bottle sitting to the left. On the other side of the wine bottle are two more plates of food. An adult with dark hair and a black shirt rests her elbow on the table and her chin in her hand. Next to her a small child sits on a brown wooden chair. The child has messy dark hair, a blue long-sleeved shirt, and a white bib. The child leans on their right arm on the table and appears to be smiling while gazing towards the plates of food at the bottom of the painting. On the right side of the lamp an older woman with gray hair and a dark shirt looks downward, barely visible as she blends into the dark background.]


Maurice Denis 

French, 1870–1943 

Intimacy, or Mender at the Window, 1903

Oil on canvas
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris PPP2139 

In this quiet scene, Denis unites his wife, Marthe, and daughters Bernadette and Anne beside a window. Denis celebrates the small acts that compose daily life: a woman with a watering can tends to the garden, Marthe sews by the window, and the children stack dominoes. Such inconsequential moments were at the heart of Nabi private lives. 

[Artwork description: This lithograph holds three characters in a tightly cropped scene. The foreground contains the back, neck and head of a woman in a very flouncy dress with layers of feathers, tulle, lace, and other frilly materials that seem to fill the entire room. Entering from a doorway at the rear of the room , another woman is facing the seated woman. She wears a dress with a pattern that seems to extend onto the walls. Also, in the room is a formally dressed man with a beard standing erect just left of the doorway of the room.]


Domestic Work

Nabi interiors are often interpreted as refuges from the stimulation of the outside world of commerce, but they are, in fact, replete with images of labor.
The women depicted caring for children, sewing, cooking, and sweeping are engaged not in leisurely pursuits, but in the necessary and largely invisible tasks of daily life. Paid labor is represented in Édouard Vuillard’s images of his mother, his sister, and the hired seamstresses in the corset- and dressmaking business that Madame Vuillard operated from their home. Sewing was not only a chore or a paid job, but it was also a social necessity: young women were expected to learn needlepoint and sewing as part of the “aesthetic dowery” they brought to a marriage. Thus, recreational needlework was a form of social labor.


Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868–1940

The Studio, ca. 1895

Lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1996.24

[Artwork description: This black ink lithograph on brown paper captures four women engaged with each other in the center of the work. The woman are elegantly dressed, we see the woman on the left from her backside and she is wearing a form fitting dark dress with a ruffly pouffy top and satiny bottom. The next woman over is the hardest to see as she is blocked by the next woman, she is facing the viewer and also has a dark dress on. The next woman also has her back to the view and her dress is decorated with a lace or frilly fabric on her back in the shape of an upside down triangle. The fourth woman is the shortest of the group, with a pale face and is facing the viewer in a light colored dress, also with a ruffly top. They are the focus of the lithograph and beyond them toward the edges have many scratch marks. Surrounding them are a few recognizable items like a lamp, a wood stove and a small table with a plant on it.]


Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868–1940

Folding Linen, 1893

Lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Jane B. Tripp Charitable Lead Annuity Trust 1997.190

Vuillard captured the daily tasks associated with his mother’s corset- and dressmaking business: not only the sewing, but also the folding, cleaning, and resting during the day. Folding Linen, The Studio, and Interior with Screen (on view nearby) all have a dreamlike quality in which the seamstresses seem to float through the hushed rooms of the Vuillard apartment/atelier. 

[Artwork description: A lithograph on brown paper with black being the single color and used in a way to create many textures. There are three white women in a room, two of which appear to be folding a cloth that is longer than a woman is tall. The linen itself takes up about 1/3 of the entire print. The woman on the left is the youngest of the three, with a long light colored dress with billowy sleeves and long light-colored, straight hair. The woman on the right side of the cloth is the eldest of the three and has her light hair up in a bun and wearing a long patterned dress. There is one more woman to the side of the eldest whose age is between the other two. She also has her dark hair up and is wearing a white blouse and a black skirt. She is watching the other two as they focus on folding the cloth carefully in half. Behind the pair folding the cloth is a heavily patterned wall with squiggles, and behind the third woman is a similarly patterned background.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

Interior with Screen, ca. 1893

Lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Nancy F. and Joseph P. Keithley Collection Gift 2020.159 

[Artwork description: A black and white lithograph of an interior with four figures dispersed within the scene. In the bottom lower left corner far a dark shadowy figure appears to be in a reclined position with his back to the viewer. His head is closest and his dark hair has white highlights. He is wearing a black cloak and toward the center of the print his leg is extended out from underneath his cloak. In the upper left a dark scratchy pattern dominates the wall back wall and a person peers out from behind a roughly floral patterned screen. This figure is wearing black and has their right arm extended. In front of the screen, to the right is a figure in a long loose garment facing the back right with his gaze towards the final figure in the scene. The final figure’s face is very clear, with close-set eyes and short hair. One hand held behind them and the other holding a small pail. Other things in the room are a low dresser near the door, some vases of flowers on the ground and a shelf behind the figure behind the screen.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

Woman Sweeping at 346, rue Saint-Honoré, 1895 

Oil on board
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Promised Gift of Nancy F. and Joseph P. Keithley 13.2020 

The Nabis imparted dignity to the ordinary tasks that sustained homelife. Critic Claude Roger-Marx noted this quality in Vuillard, and praised this canvas; he pointed to the harmony between the model—Madame Vuillard—and her surroundings (their shared apartment/ atelier): 

Poorly dressed in a house-jacket, the woman of the house, like the walls, is no longer young. The broom is worn-out, the towel wearing into threads. Yet there is here no appeal to sentiment. The woman sweeping appears neither overtired nor bound to her task—she is not a hireling, she is in her home, and happy.

[Artwork description: A colorful, highly patterned and textured painting with a white woman sweeping the floor. She is almost centered along the back wall, which has floral patterned wallpaper with pinks, greens, blues and tans on the upper two-thirds and a red/brown paneled wainscoting along the bottom. The closed door behind her is white and she is wearing a long grayish-blue skirt with a pink and gray stripped sweater. She has her head down and is looking at where her broom meets the floor. To her right, along the back wall is a shoulder height wooden cupboard with one door slightly open. In front of this wardrobe is a chair and in front of that a dining table which dominates the right side of the painting. The reddish brown table has a lighter colored leaf installed in the center and on the far half of the table is a folded up tablecloth with assorted items on it including a yellow book and a tall green vase. A second chair is central to the painting and has a rounded seat bottom and bright white towel with two red stripes and fringe on the end strewn atop the chair back. On the far left of the painting are an assortment of things. A black cylindrical wood stove with connecting pipes, a pair of black slippers, a red and black umbrella or lampshade and and unknown solid gray object and a spindly red object.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

The Dressmaker, from Album de la Revue blanche, 1895

Color lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams Collection 1941.538 

In this lithograph of his sister, Marie, at work, Vuillard contrasts the various textures of the textiles. Light seems to dissolve the gauzy curtains and Marie’s ruffled bodice, while the bolts of fabric to her right are solid and flattened. 

[Artwork description: A two color lithograph primarily in blue with accents of yellow ochre. The scene is that of looking in on a woman who is working at a table. Seen from the back, her hair is pulled up and her focus is on what she is working on. The table seems to have billowing fabric on it. The top of her dress is very ruffled and is gathered tight around the waist and has a polka dotted skirt bottom. The upper half of the print contains large windows with gauzy curtains. To the right of the print, aside the woman and windows is a narrow strip of patterned wallpaper. A few solid squares of white, yellow ochre and blue are pinned onto the wall, perhaps patterns pieces. There is a stack of items to the right of the seated woman and a wooden chair to her left.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

Woman Sewing by an Open Window, 1895

Oil on paper mounted on canvas mounted on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of John T. Spaulding 48.612 

Vuillard’s sister, Marie, is once again the model for a portrait of quiet absorption. The warm sunlight entering the open windows highlights her neck bent over her stitchwork and animates the dots on her dress. As in other work by Vuillard, the surface patterns compete with the subject for our attention.

[Artwork description: In this dark oil painting a light skinned woman sits sewing in front of a large window. The seated woman is to the left side and engaged in handiwork with her head extended forwards and downcast. She is wearing a black and white dotted, billowy blouse whose highlights are accentuated from the light coming in the window. The upper two-thirds of the painting shows the warm orange/yellow light filtered through green trees and the prominent screens covering the windows. A reflection of the light and green trees is captured on the glass of the open window behind the woman. There appears to be a light tan chest and some other soft textiles nearby the woman in shades of brown and mint green, something rounded and blue also sits on top of the chest. The pattern of the light filtering through the diamond shaped screens and the woman’s blouse dominate the composition.]


Félix Vallotton

Swiss, 1865–1925

Portrait of Gabrielle Vallotton Seated in a Rocking Chair, 1902

Oil on canvas
Private collection

This candid portrait depicts the artist’s wife knitting in a bentwood rocker. Unlike Vuillard’s working-class seamstresses who are employed in the garment trade, Gabrielle, who hailed from a wealthy family, is shown at leisure. Stitchwork, like music, was considered part of the “aesthetic dowry” that women brought to a marriage.

[Artwork description: This horizontal painting depicts Gabrielle Vallotton seated in a red armchair in a red room with a small child playing at her feet. Gabrielle sits with her back to a balck and white tiled fireplace and appears to gaze down at the child. She sits in a upolstered chair with dark wood arms. Gabrielle wears a long burgandy dress with a high neck, long sleeves and a gray bodice and a wide gray sash at the waist. Her hands rest in her lap with her elbows resting on the chair arms. Her gaze in downcast towards the child, her skin is light peach colored and she has her dark hair piled on top of her head. The gray sash drapes over her lap and falls to the floor where the blonde child is sitting on a patterned carpet. The child has light skin and blonde short hair and appears to be tearing white paper into small pieces. Most of the upper right of th epainting depicts the deep red walls of the room and a bed dressed in a similar color red. A dark cylindrical table stands at far right and holds a single brass candlestick and lit candle.]


Pierre Bonnard 

French, 1867–1947 

Les Peintres-Graveurs, 1896

Color lithograph
Promised Gift of Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler to the Portland Art Museum 

The 1890s witnessed a great renaissance of printmaking and collecting. The graphic arts were considered the most intimate medium, since each print would be held in the hand and contemplated in solitude, as one critic noted: “the original print … must be savored as one would a secret, away from the crowd, in quiet intimacy, with silent devotion.” 

Enjoying prints in the privacy of one’s home greatly interested the Nabis. Not only did they produce original work for the print-collecting public, but they also depicted people studying sheets in their home. This poster, advertising an upcoming print exhibition by painter-printmakers, captures just such a moment. 

[Artwork description: Lithograph on tan paper – poster advertising exhibition of the peintres-graveuers (paintprintmakers) at the Vollard Gallery. A figure with light skin and curly black hair faces away from the viewer, sitting in a tan chair and holding a paper with art on it. On the bottom right is a black portfolio with the top left corner torn off. Large bold letters read “Les Peintres Graveurs”. The letters are dark brown when they are on the tan portion of the paper and light tan when they are over the black. Smaller brown letters on the bottom left read “Galerie Vollard. 6 rue Laffitte.” Tan letters at the top right of the poster read “Exposition” with smaller letters giving the dates of the exhibition.]


Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868–1940

Cover of Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Jean Y. Roth Memorial Fund 2019.13.1

This lithograph served as the cover for Vuillard’s portfolio, Landscapes and Interiors. Here, two women relax in a snug interior: one, dressed in white and accompanied by a small dog, reads a green-covered book at the left, while another (almost camouflaged in her surroundings) studies a fine print at the lower right.

The barely distinguishable text across the surface of this lithograph reads:

Douze lithographies en couleurs
Edouard Vuillard
editíés par Vollard
6 rue Lafitte

Twelve color lithographs
Edouard Vuillard
published by Vollard
6 Lafitte Street

[Artwork description: A very busy lithograph printed with greens and gray with the white of the paper showing through in places. This lithograph has a layer of words printed in green a top the scene with the people and objects. The words are in green and say: Douze / Lithographies / en / couleurs / Edouard Vuillard / editees par Vollard / 6 rue Laffitte (the / represent line breaks). Beneath the words are a scene of a man, a girl with a small dog or cat sitting across from each other reading. The man is wearing a white and green pin striped outfit and has his back to the viewer. He’s seated crosslegged in a wooden chair looking at a piece of paper with an image on it. You can not see his face, only the back of his head of wavy hair. To his right is a built-in cabinet of drawers that is taller than him with a flat surface hosting a few single sheets of paper on it. The top half of built-in has a decorative green shutter an an opened window. To the man’s left is a gray bare wood floor. The girl and animal across from the man are seated on an upright brown padded surround bench with the back much taller than the girl. The girl has dark hair, white skin and a long white dress. The animal next to her is either a small cat or dog with a brown body, a white chest and face and pointy ears. Above the bench are stacks of books and hints of green foliage in the background.]


Landscapes and Interiors 

Édouard Vuillard’s suite Landscapes and Interiors shows him at the height of his lithographic career, and highlights his interest in the domestic interior as a place for both comfort and unease. Nine of the thirteen sheets depict interiors, either Vuillard’s own home or that of his close friends Thadée and Misia Natanson. Each sheet evokes an aspect of the intimate world of homelife: playing checkers, enjoying a private conversation, or examining fine prints, as seen on the cover. Others, however, hint at a hothouse environment in which wallpaper runs amok, figures appear out of scale, or women lurk silently at the edges. The beauty of the patterning and the sophistication of the artist’s color scheme camouflage the stifling atmosphere of these rich and ambiguous scenes. 

Three additional sheets from Landscapes and Interiors are on view in the Nabi City gallery. 


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

The Game of Checkers, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council 2021.34.1 

[Artwork description: This lithograph is dense with many scratch and squiggle marks, saturated colors and patterns. Two men are seated at a table playing checkers with a woman standing over them observing. Both men are seated in profile at a slight angle, the man on the right we see more of his back, the man on the left more of his face, both men have both their hands in view alongside the green and white checkerboard. The man on the right is wearing a crimson sweater and is seated on a floral padded chair. He has a white skin and dark hair. The man across from him is also wearing a crimson outfit, has a white face and skin and dark balding hair and a beard. He is seated on a green couch that is in front of a beige wall with crimson and green squiggles giving it a heavy pattern. There is a very simple rendering of a tulip lamp above the man that easily blends into the wallpaper. There is another table to his right with dishes on it and another floral padded chair across from him. The woman is standing, wearing a crimson plaid dress with very pouffy sleeves that reveal her white arms from the elbow down. She has her hair in a bun atop her head and her eyes are down at the checkerboard, all the attention and gazes of the three figures are on the checkerboard.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

The Two Sisters-in-Law, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by James and Diane Burke in honor of Jill Hansen, M.D. 2021.34.6 

In this hushed lithograph, Misia Natanson, Vuillard’s artistic muse, enjoys an intimate conversation with her sister-in-law, actress Marthe Mellot. The two women lean against a piano, an instrument that Misia played brilliantly. 

[Artwork description: A female figure wearing a voluminous black dress dominates this lithograph. She has dark hair and white skin and is seen in profile kneeling on a stool covered by her dress. She leans on a table covered in a black cloth. Another woman stands at left, slightly hunching over the table with her back to the viewer. She wears a long flowing white dress with small red polka dots. Both woman are intently looking at something on the table where a bright red object rests. A small portion of an upholstered chair with a large yellow and green pattered cushion and a curvy wooden arm is seen at lower left. The upper portion of the work is filled with the depiction of bright yellow wallpare with frentic green markings.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

The Cook, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Dan Bergsvik and Don Hastler 2021.34.5 

The artist’s mother was known for her hospitality toward her son’s Nabi friends, who occasionally dined in the Vuillards’ apartment. Madame Vuillard reigned in the kitchen, but here, the artist depicts her as diminutive and frozen, part of the still life of objects and patterns of the room. 

[Artwork description: In the center of this lithograph, a woman sits drying a dish in the kitchen. She has her gaze upon the off-white dish she is drying with a white cloth in her lap. She has white hair, and pale skin, she is wearing a blue and white patterned blouse and a black skirt with a long white apron covering her entire lap. To her right is the kitchen counter and sink. The tiles that edge the counter are blue and white diamonds. Also on the counter is a spread of more off-white dishes on a white towel and some pots and pans with long handles. Behind the woman is an off-white and brown cabinet with one door open to revel more white dishes and a dark wine bottle.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

The Hearth, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
Private collection 

Vuillard combines potent signifiers of homelife—the hearth and kitchen tools—that pay homage to the daily chores and comforts of the domestic world he shared with his mother. The strange perspective in which the chair looms above the viewer suggests a childlike viewpoint. 

[Artwork description: A tightly cropped lithograph of a fireplace and an assortment of handled pans, plates, serving utensils and cups. The fireplace is dark except for the small glow of orange from a fire and the tan and white trim around the fire. A purple stone sits directly in front of the fireplace and beyond the stone is an edge of a patterned rug of red, yellow, black and gray. Partially on the floor, and partially on the rug, there is a round yellow chair that extends beyond the lithograph which is of extreme contrast to the black wall.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

Interior with Pink Wallpaper I, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund 1951.65.6–8 

The optical beauty of the patterning and luscious color of Interior with Wallpaper I, II, and III distracts from their ambivalent undercurrents. Across the three sheets, Vuillard creates an airless enclosure in which the wallpaper replicates itself, metastasizing across the surface and threatening the figures partially glimpsed through interior doors. Hidden figures recur in Vuillard’s work, adding an element of the uncanny to familiar settings.

[Artwork description: In the lower right corner of this lithograph a woman is standing in an open doorway, wearing a blue and white dress with a red scarf and beige skin, one arm across her body. The room behind her is the same color blue as her dress, with some elements of dark red. The rest of the lithograph is dominated by a busy pink patterned wallpaper that covers the open door and the surrounding walls. The pattern of the wallpaper has a pink background and red and taupe dots throughout with taupe curvy lines swirling every which way. A few objects in the room are free of the pattern – a small reddish-orange desk in the lower left and the blue lamp that sits upon it. Beyond the desk, there is an indecipherable artwork hanging on the wallpapered wall with taupes and blues with a yellow sideboard beneath it. Above the woman, a chandelier hangs from the ceiling and bleeds off the right side of the page. The large center shade is glowing yellow, one can also make out the structure that holds up the lamp, and some smaller side shades that encircle the large central shade. The very top of the print is a plane pale pink ceiling that transitions to a white crown molding.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

Interior with Pink Wallpaper II, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899 

Color lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund 1951.65.7 

[Artwork description: In the foreground at left, a large shaded hanging lamp dominates a wallpapered room . The lamp is bright yellow and its light seems to radiates beyond the lamp illuminating the room. It has a large dome shaped upper shade that is gathered at the top. Beneath the shade, the many body of the lamp extands down about as far as the shade is high. Three round, connected and decorative elements form the body, and there are short arms that jut from the large shade that may hold more lighting components. Beneath the lamp, a figure stands in red and tan checkered clothing. The face is obscured by the bottom most part of the chandelier. Most of the right isde of the print Behind the lamp and figure is a red arched doorway that is only slightly open to expose a field of blue. The wallpaper is the same wallpaper as the other Pink Wallpaper lithographs; organic patterned with a pink background and red and taupe dots along with taupe curvy lines throughout. A piece of art is mounted on the wall next to the arched doorway, it is a rectangle of yellow with a white matte or frame, beneath that is the top rail of a pink chair. The room is all wallpapered except for the crown molding and pink ceiling at the top and a yellow screen window or door on the far right.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

Interior with Pink Wallpaper III, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899 

Color lithograph
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund 1951.65.8 

[Artwork description: Through an open doorway a woman is seen peering through another doorway at a child who is moving through yet another doorway. The outer most room has the familiar wallpaper from the other Interior with Pink Wallpapers; an organic pattern with a pink background and red and taupe dots along with taupe curvy lines throughout, on the wall to the left of the door and then again in an area above right of the door. The area above the door has two light blue rectangular sections, and the area above the wallpaper a darker blue section. Into the next room a woman stands on the left side of the doorway. She has white skin, brown wispy hair and a taupe and yellow vertically striped dress with a red panel on the back upper neck. The room she is in is mostly white with thin horizontal yellow stripes and a piece of art hanging on the wall in the colors of red, yellow and taupe. The next room has two small children rendered in white and navy who are in front of a yellow and navy door. The trim around that door is red, and there is a taupe checkered pattern on the wall above it.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940

Interior with Hanging Lamp, from Landscapes and Interiors, 1899

Color lithograph
Portland Art Museum, Museum Purchase: Funds Provided by James and Diane Burke in honor of Ross Passo and Julia Saltalamacchia 2021.34.2 

[Artwork description: The view in this lithograph is a dining room scene made of yellow, green, red and purple inks. There is a ceiling lamp in the upper left corner that is very prominent. It has a bright white bell shaped glass shade with a black ribbon tied around the smallest part at the top that drapes down the shade. Some of the metal hardware is also depicted, the hardware from above and the half circle lamp portion below the shade. The light is illuminating a portion of the room, the center of the lithograph. On the walls in the dining room is yellow wainscoting and white wallpaper with a small print. In the lower left is a green tablecloth with some red lines creating a decorative table linen. There is an open door leading to another room that has some undecipherable things in it that are purple (maybe windows) and something red with white (maybe a chair with a blanket). On the far right of the lithograph, on the other side of the open door is a woman in the shadows. All you can see of her is her white face and hand as her dark green dress blends into the walls. She is looking directly at the viewer.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

Woman in a Striped Dress, 1895

Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon 1983.1.38 

Vuillard excelled in capturing the hushed atmosphere of French interiors of the late 1800s. Here, three female figures move solemnly, absorbed in the task of arranging flowers in a richly painted room. The play of pattern and the variety of brushstrokes animate this canvas, which critics praised as “harmonious and discreet” while also noting the melancholy chord Vuillard struck. 

[Artwork description: A boldly colored and patterned painting featuring women and flowers. The primary figure in the painting is a white woman in a crimson and white striped dress with a tight neck, large ballooned shoulders and long sleeves gathering to a slight ruffle at the wrist. The woman has auburn colored hair that is pulled into an updo and she is arranging a vase of flowers on a table with a soft orange colored table cloth. The arrangement has a lot of greenery, one bright red flower and a handful of maroon and cream colored larger flowers. On the table there are three stray flowers, a tan box and at least two more large vases of greenery arrangements. Beside the woman, over her left shoulder is another white woman in a crimson dress. Both of their gazes are fixed upon the vases of flowers in front of them. Behind the two central woman is a textured wallpaper in hues of sage and moss green, crimson and orange and over the right shoulder of the woman in the striped dress is a younger white woman entering the scene with light brown hair and a long golden dress.]


Pierre Bonnard 

French, 1867–1947 

Cover of the “Album of Original Prints from the Vollard Gallery,” 1897 

Color lithograph
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Leisser Art Fund 54.34.1 

Bonnard references the print-collecting boom in this lithograph in which five original prints are arrayed across a table. This print was intended as a cover for a print album: collectors could crease it horizontally to form a portfolio. Bonnard’s humor is once again evident as he contrasts the pleasure of viewing prints at home with the perils posed by household pets. 

[Artwork description: Lithograph on cream paper of a large round table that is white on the left and painted red on the right with five sketches laying on the table and a small gray cat playing with a wad of paper. The large table fills most of the lithograph. A small portion of tan wooden floor and a tan wall with a dark gray stripe running horizontally along the floor and a thicker stripe running vertically up the wall in two places. The red paint runs to the middle of the table with an uneven organic edge. The first square paper has a light tan landscape sketch with rolling hills, clouds, and four tall objects that appear tree-like. The second is rectangular and has an organic design that is not distinguishable. The third lies to the right and is a square paper with tan organic shapes that are not distinguishable. The fourth lays over the others and appears to have a tree with plants growing around them. Under it on the left the fifth sketch appears to be of an indoor scene. It is the only sketch that uses dots and lines of red along with the tan ink. The small gray kitten has a long tail that curls downward. It bats at the crumpled paper with thin paws. Red writing starts at the top of the table and continues on top of the third and fourth sketches.]


Édouard Vuillard 

French, 1868–1940 

The Green Bedroom, rue Truffaut, ca. 1900–1901

Oil on board
Private collection, Portland, Oregon 

Vuillard’s interior scenes often telegraph both privacy and ambiguity. While the female figure (probably Vuillard’s mother or sister) and the small child—Vuillard’s niece, Annette—are identifiable, the black shapes on either edge of the canvas are indeterminate. Is the black mass in the lower left a woman slumped over a table? Does the black form on the right represent a human or an inanimate form? Such uncertainty engages viewers and prompts them to look closely and devise their own meaning. 

[Artwork description: This oil painting has an overall soft focus with visible brushstrokes throughout. In the center of the piece is a woman with a blue boat neck shirt, grayish pinkish skin, brown hair and a red and black vertical striped skirt holding a black coat and looking at the small child in front of her. The child is standing, and only about the height of the woman’s knees, with the same skin tone and blonde hair. They wear a gray outfit and looks up towards the woman. The walls of the room are a bright key lime green. Behind and to the right of the woman are french doors with pale orange curtains pulled to form triangles across the windows. Through the windows a small white railing suggests there is a balcony. There is some cream colored fabric in front of the doors with red and white spots. And beside the child is a black couch with a decorative wooden leg visible. The room has planked wooden floors, in browns and grays. In the left foreground of the painting, there appears to be a person kneeling down with their head bowed on a black table. The figure has a peach colored face, black hair and a full length black cloak or dress. Above them hangs a tan piece of art on the green wall, and next to that is a doorframe trimmed in white that opens to a field of gray.]

Private Lives » The Intimate Interior