Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do you look at art sometimes and resist reading anything about it because you really prefer not to have any information? Sometimes it's just enough to look and think about it. So if you want, don't read any further and just taken in Vuillard's oil, The Nape of Misia's Neck, from 1897-99.

For a few years now I've had a doorstopper book on Vuillard (published to accompany an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. several years ago) and I've looked at this piece a zillion times - today for the first time I read the notes about the painting and they gave me a whole new perspective. Apparently, Vuillard was very charmed by Misia, a talented and charming pianist who became a muse for him as well as for others (no, not Tiger). She was married to Thadee Natanson, and Vuillard and other painters including Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Renoir used to gather at their house.

Misia's memoirs were published after her death:

The echoes of this agitation (the Dreyfus affair) reached me at Villeneuve, and I decided to leave for Paris earlier than usual. Vuillard then said he wanted to take a last walk along the banks of the Yonne, and we started at dusk. Looking dreamy and grave, he led me beside the river amongst the tall birches with their silvery trunks. He moved slowly over the yellowing grass, and I fell in with his mood; we did not speak. The day was closing in rapidly, so we took a shortcut across a bare beetroot field. Our silhouettes were insubstantial shadows against a pale sky. The ground was rough, I tripped on a root and almost fell; Vuillard stopped abruptly to help me regain my balance. Our eyes met. In the deepening shdows I could see the sad gleam of his glance. He burst into sobs. It was the most beautiful declaration of love ever made to me.
(p. 220, Vuillard, produced by the publishing office of National Gallery of Art, Washington, editor Judy Metro, 2002)

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