This charming small painting depicts a young girl dwarfed by her architectural setting but made prominent by the brilliance of her pink dress and hair ribbon as seen against the more neutral whites and browns of her environment. The girl is Annette Roussel, the artist’s niece, who was born in 1895 and whom Édouard Vuillard painted many times, especially at the Roussels’ rue de Calais apartment in Paris. In this painting, the playful Annette has gotten under the white curtain of the closed casement windows and is peeking out, being somewhat obscured by the protective wrought iron grille. As Elizabeth Easton has written, “The sense of privacy that is central to [Vuillard’s] paintings of his family and closest friends found its pictorial expression in the tightly woven spaces and patterns of the interior.”
When Vuillard’s father died in 1883, his mother went into the corset- and dressmaking trade to support her children, and this may account for Vuillard’s artistic interest in sensuous patterns and constructive shapes as exemplified in the Dumbarton Oaks painting. He lived with his mother until her death in 1928. In 1886, Vuillard studied painting at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts under the academic Jean-Léon Gérome. Two years later he was working with Maurice Denis, his lifelong friend Pierre Bonnard, and Paul Serusier at the Académie Julian, where they formed a group called the Nabis, after the Hebrew for Prophets, and rejected naturalism and impressionism in favor of pure design and color. Vuillard’s art thereafter incorporated more decorative elements, producing colorful surfaces without the illusion of depth.
Dugdale, James. The Masters, 97: Vuillard. Paulton, 1967, 14, pl. 14.
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 368f, ill.
Easton, Elizabeth W. "Edouard Vuillard's Photography and the Limitations of Truth" in Snapshot, Painters and Photography 1888-1915. Elizabeth W. Easton, ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011, 216, cat. 206.
Bocquillon, Marina Ferretti. Japonismes Impressionnismes. Giverny: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2018), 176, no. 132, ill.
"Le Décor de la vie sous la IIIme République de 1870 à 1900," Musée du Louvre, Pavilion de Marsan, Paris, 4-7/1933, cat. no. 346.
"11th Exhibition of Water Colors and Pastels," Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 2/14-3/11/1934.
"Paintings and Sculptures Owned in Washington," Phillips Art Gallery, Washington, D.C., 4/15-30/1937, cat. no. 34.
"Portraits of Children," The Museum of Modern Art Gallery, 17th and H Streets, NW, Washington, D.C., 2/22-3/20/1938.
"Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Prints by Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard," Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., 12/15/1938-1/15/1939, cat. no. 38.
"Bonnard-Vuillard Exhibition," Institute of Modern Art, Boston, Mass., 10/6-11/11/1944, cat. no. 39.
Julius Lowy, New York, New York, 9/11-9/27/1945.
"E. Vuillard (1865-1940): His Dynamic Early Period," Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York, New York, 11/5-27/1948, cat. no. 12, ill.
City Tavern, Washington, D.C., 1/292-2/28/1963.
"Intimate Interiors of Edouard Vuillard," Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, 11/17/1989-1/28/1990, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2/17-4/29/1990, Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, 5/17-7/30/1990.
"Snapshot. Schilders en fotografie, 1888-1915 / Snapshot. Painters and Photography, 1888-1915, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 10/14/2011-1/8/2012; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2/4-5/6/2012; and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 6/8-9/2/2012, cat. 206.
"Japonismes Impressionnismes," Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 3/30-7/15/2018), no. 132.
Joseph Hessel Collection, Paris (close friend and patron of the artist).
Purchased from Jacques Seligmann et Fils, Paris (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 4/4/1936.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 4/4/1936-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.