Vuillard and Madame Vuillard

Francesca Berry, Mathias Chivot

Marking 150 years since the artist's birth, this catalogue accompanies the first exhibition dedicated exclusively to Édouard Vuillard's portrayal of his mother, Madame Marie-Justine-Alexandrine Michaud Vuillard. Few other artistic practices have so consistently featured the artist's mother as motif, whether that is in paintings that approximate to
Date Published :
December 2018
Publisher :
Paul Holberton Publishing
Illustration :
Fully Illustrated
No associated books available.


Madame Vuillard is a particular focus of the work produced during the initial decade of Édouard Vuillard’s (1868 - 1940) career, the 1890s, when Vuillard was a member of the Nabis and forging an artistic identity as part of the Parisian avant-garde. During this period Vuillard and his widowed mother shared a series of modest rented apartments in central Paris in which the artist sustained a works-on-paper and (from 1897) amateur photographic practice out of his ‘studio-bedroom,' whilst in the dining room Madame Vuillard ran the corsetry business employing a handful of seamstresses including Vuillard’s sister. In these apartments Vuillard and Madame Vuillard operated mutually supportive, parallel working practices, to the extent that Vuillard put his mother and the fabric of her atelier ‘in the picture’ whilst she posed for his pencil and camera or developed his photographs in the kitchen. Their Parisian co-habitation, and Vuillard’s portrayal of his mother across a range of pictorial media, lasted until Madame Vuillard’s death as an elderly woman in 1928.

About The Author

Francesca Berry is Lecturer in History of Art and Head of Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies at University of Birmingham.

Mathias Chivot is an art historian and Archives Manager at Vuillard-Archives Roussel, Paris.


"Charming ... was Vuillard an overindulged mummy's boy, spoilt and cosseted, happily tied to [his mother's] apron strings? Or was he driven, determined, devoted to his art?"

- World of Interiors, November 2018

"Surprisingly, given the important role [Vuillard's mother] played in his art, there has never beed an exhibition focusing on their devoted relationship... Maman asks how Vulliard could summon progressive art out of the ostensibly banal world of petit-bourgeois domesticity... For all their quiet modesty, and debt to traditional domestic interiors by Vermeer, Vuillard's "intimiste" painting have a surprising radical quality."

- Daily Telegraph, October 2018

"Well-chosen exhibition ... elaborates how Vuillard's intimism, both his formal project to push the limits of representation by dissolving the figure in enveloping interior space, and his thematic concern with the warmth/claustrophobia of petit bourgeois experience, depended on his closeness to his mother."

- Financial Times, October 2018

"Compelling ... in bringing her forward, the curators show just how much Madame Vuillard recede into the ambience she created, but also into her inner self. Vuillard allows her to be constantly present and yet fully as private as any human being." 

- Observer

"Stunning works"

- Times, October 2018

"Charming ... these intimate pictures are a radical departure from the usual French fin-de-siècle celebrations of woman as love object, let alone sex object. They’re a celebration of ‘her indoors’ from a filial perspective: images of female domestic industry and the atmosphere in which it was wrapped — an atmosphere Vuillard had breathed since childhood."

- Spectator, November 2018

"[An] intimate portrayal of the relationship between the artist and his mother."

- Country Life, December 2018

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