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Félix Edouard Vallotton
swiss, active in france
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During the 1890s Félix Vallotton created the outstanding woodcut prints and other graphic works on which his reputation rests, the apex of his 40-year artistic career. Vallotton studied art and learned etching in his native Lausanne. In 1882 at age sixteen Vallotton moved to Paris to study under Jules Lefèbvre (1836-1911) at the Académie Julian. Oil portraits by him were accepted for exhibition in the Salons des Artistes Français of 1885 and 1887. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Vallotton made reproductive etchings of old masters’ works, illustrated books and painted oil and watercolor portraits and landscapes to earn a living, working in Paris and Lausanne as well as traveling to Austria and Italy. Sources differ on how Vallotton was introduced to woodcuts, but his nephew Maxime Vallotton belived that his uncle was inspired by the Japanese ukyio-e (floating world) woodcut prints (see St. James/Vallotton). He completed his first woodcuts in 1891 and soon began making zincographs and lithographs as well, while continuing to paint and make etchings. Also in 1891 he met Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and others in the group of young artists who styled themselves Les Nabis (after the Hebrew word for “prophet”). From 1891 until around 1900 Vallotton’s works reflected the style of the Nabis and became simplified; his prints were mostly done in black-and-white without modeling of figures shown and largely without shading. His subject matter expanded to focus on life in Paris, in addition to landscapes and portraits. Vallotton exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1891 and 1893, at the first Salon de la Rose+Croix in 1892 and the Nabis exhibitions in Paris in 1893, 1894 and 1896-1902 and in Brussels in 1897. Individual woodcuts of his were published in André Marty’s (1857-?) series of ninety-five prints, L’Estampe originale (The Original Print, 1893-1895) (La Manifestation [The Demonstration, Vallotton 110], 1893) and Le Bain [The Bath, Vallotton 148], 1894), and in Ambroise Vollard’s series of twenty-two prints, Les Peintres-Graveurs (Le Premier Janvier [The First of January, Vallotton 167], 1896). He contributed a lithographed program for August Strindberg’s (1849-1912) play Père (The Father, Vallotton 53) performed at the Théâtre de L’Œuvre in 1894. Vallotton published series of woodcuts in the 1890s, with the best known being Intimités (1898, Valloton 188-197), ten prints exploring emotional tensions between men and women published by the journal La Revue blanche. He also published a series of lithographic portraits Immortels Passés, Présents ou Futurs (Immortals Past, Present or Future, 1892-1894, Vallotton 24-40), a set of etched Vues de Paris (Views of Paris, 1893, Vallotton 12-23), and a set of zincographs entitled Paris Intense, 1893-1894, Vallotton 45-51). Vallotton published more than seventy illustrations in the journal La Revue blanche before it closed in 1903. He also provided illustrations for several other journals, including L’Assiette au beurre and Quotidien illustré (Paris), The Chap-book (Chicago), Die Jugend (Munich) and Pan (Berlin), and several books. During this time he also wrote art criticism for the Gazette de Lausanne and various magazines. Valloton left his long-time model and mistress Hélène Chatenay (?-1910) in 1899 and married Gabrielle Rodriques-Henriques (?-?), the daughter of wealthy art dealer Alexandre Bernheim (1839-1915), becoming a French citizen in 1900. Perhaps influenced by his increased prosperity, his focus changed from prints to painting. He abandoned printmaking slowly; in 1901 Vallotton created a series of six woodcuts, L’Exposition Universelle (The World Fair, Vallotton 203-208), and twenty-three lithographs, Crimes et Chatiments (Crimes and Punishments, Valloton 56-78), provided illustrations for Le Canard sauvage in 1903 and made six woodcuts C’est la Guerre (Vallotton 212-217) in 1915. Most of his many works after 1902 were paintings, however, with a focus on realistic nudes, landscapes and interiors in subdued colors. He continued to exhibit frequently, participating in five exhibitions in 1903 alone. He received his first solo exhibition at the Zurich Kusthaus in 1909-1910 and exhibited frequently thereafter at the Galerie Druet, Paris, with a 1914 exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Lausanne. He wrote an autobiographical novel, La Vie meurtrière (The Murderous Life), published in 1927 and five plays, one of which was performed in Paris in 1908. He continued to work until his death, creating fifty-one works during the last year of his life. (TNB 7/2010) Selected bibliography: St. James, Ashley, and Maxime Vallotton. The Graphic Art of Félix Vallotton. Exhibition catalog. Los Angeles: University of California at Los Angeles and Grunwald Graphic Arts Foundation, 1972. Newman, Sasha M. Félix Vallotton. Exhibition catalog. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, New York: Abbeville Press, 1991.