Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chapter Three: Edouard Vuillard

Messing Around in the Office (Edouard Vuillard)


Visual artists have a knack for inventing new words to put their work in context. It’s as if their creativity spills over into the regular world where you and I live.

Edouard Vuillard, for example, lived in a particularly ripe time that included impressionism, cubism, fauvism, expressionism and more. It’s an impressive list and an exciting time for any painter to be alive.

The Office Cat / © Deborah Julian
But Vuillard dove even deeper. Like Pierre Bonnard, who you will meet later in this book, he was one of Les Nabis. Les Nabis? Nabi means prophet in both Arabic and Hebrew. More forerunners than profits, les Nabis were post-impressionists — there’s another one — inspired by Paul Gauguin’s (Ready?) synthetism. 

None of that explains what got Sam involved, although Elmer Fudd might describe him as a very “synthetive cat.” What got Sam’s attention was the last in an exhausting list of categories with which Vuillard was associated.

Edouard Vuillard was an intimist. 

The intimists were known for painting the types of interiors you’d see if you were a fly on the wall or as invisible as cats sometimes are. Pierre Bonnard was also an intimist, but more light bulbs and the curtains opened, and if you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, you will find his paintings sharing rooms comfortably with Vuillard’s. 

Vuillard’s dark, fuzzy scenes represent the business ongoing in the home of his mother, a dressmaker and widow with whom he lived until he was sixty when she died. They are psychological, reflections of not just his domestic situation but his feelings about it. 

Here again, this is not what interested Sam. What interested him, or rather what bugged his feline sensibilities, were the staid surroundings, so quiet, nothing going on. Few cats enjoy the pleasures of staid as, for example, a turtle might.

Fidgety one day, Sammy decided that Vuillard’s mother’s office was too much of a still life, the venue of a fuss budget. Bouncing up on a table inside the frame, he seized on a pile of mail carefully stacked alongside some fabric samples and paperwork.


It just felt right to begin evacuating the mail, paperwork and samples, one at a time. In The Office Cat, you see him pausing just long enough to look to the floor, appreciating his work in progress.