AMSTERDAM.- The Van Gogh Museum
has added the two most important works from the graphic oeuvre of artist Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) to its print collection: the series of ten woodcuts Intimités (Intimacies) and the woodcut La Paresse (Laziness). Director Axel Rüger: Intimités is not only a masterwork among Félix Vallotton's oeuvre, but it is also one of the most important series among the graphic works from the fin-de-siècle period. For years we have wished to acquire this series for our museum. La Paresse is one of the most excellent woodcuts ever made by Vallotton. As such, these two works by the Swiss-French artist are a tremendous addition to the first-rate print collection of the Van Gogh Museum. Both works were purchased with the support of the BankGiro Lottery and will remain on show in the exhibition Félix Vallotton. Fire Beneath the Ice in the Van Gogh Museum, which will run until 1 June.
The disturbing scenes of Intimités
From the moment they were printed, the series of woodcuts with the title Intimités was considered to be a prestigious project. When the avant-garde publication La Revue blanche printed the series in an exclusive edition of 25 in 1898, the modern art of printmaking was more popular than ever in the Paris art world. Among his fellow printmakers, Félix Vallotton was one of the most renowned artists. He was recognized as an innovator of the medium of the woodcut and his prints dating from 1896 to 1898 are the culmination of his career.
Intimités has always been recognized as his most impressive work and even in his own time they were already more appreciated than his paintings. With these ten dark woodcuts, their black surfaces cut through by a few white lines, Vallotton probed the emotional lives of the Paris bourgeoisie. He portrayed the eternal struggle between man and woman by means of theatrical scenes and suggestive titles, such as The Lie', The Money' and The Irreparable'. Vallotton brought to the surface his cynical view on love. Women are portrayed as superficial, calculating creatures: cruel, insatiable and triumphing.
La Paresse: the style of black and white
In his paintings and prints, Vallotton was always searching for visual elements with a 'decorative appeal', which was typical of his colleagues of the Nabis group of artists. La Paresse (Laziness) is a perfect example. We can see how the artist created an elegant and seductive image by means of lines, surfaces and contrasts in the block of wood: the naked woman and the cat were cut out in white surfaces and he positioned them against a background of luxuriant patterns. The resulting decorative synthesis shows Vallotton to be an absolute master in the art of printmaking.
In 2000, the Vincent van Gogh Foundation acquired for the Van Gogh Museum a huge collection of works on paper by Nabis artists, among them 90 woodcuts by Vallotton. The Van Gogh Museum now owns one of the largest collections of woodcuts by this artist outside France and Switzerland.