Édouard Vuillard (1868 Cuiseaux - 1940 La Baule)
Pastel on paper ; stamped "E. Vuillard" at the lower right ; 25 x 17 cm
A. Salomon and G. Cogeval, Vuillard, Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, Paris, 2003, p. 1184, n°X-18.
In February 1917, Vuillard spends three weeks in Gérardmer, in the Vosges, as a military painter. As a painter of intimacy, he is obviously not at ease in this garrison town, where boredom and cold are the main problems. The most deadly episodes in this sector took place in 1914 and 1915.
Vuillard brought back a dozen pastels. This one is the most introspective. He finds here a form of intimacy "in reverse" : the balustrade, as later in Bonnard's paintings, marks the border between "inside" and "outside". The painter can concentrate on what is really important to him, as the critic Claude Roger-Marx so well describes : "notation of a general atmosphere, establishment of the guidelines of the composition, choice of a dominant harmony."
We can compare this touching pastel, in a perfect state and of obvious modernity (we can think of Mondrian's researches a few years earlier), with an equally sober moment in Vuillard's diary : "Saturday morning, 17th : thawing weather, long walk (...), monotonous fir trees ; after lunch, write, small pastel."