PARIS.- Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) had a foot in two centuries, two countries and two cultures. He was trained at the Julian Academy in Paris, the cradle of many Post-Impressionist artists and Nabis. Before he was thirty, he had won international renown for his woodcuts, small black and white images, often ferocious in their irony. Before touring the world, they created a sensation in the Paris avant-garde, winning Vallotton admission to the group of the Nabis and the friendship of its leading members.
After 1899, he left woodcutting for painting, leaving over 1700 paintings when he died in 1925. He worked assiduously, in all genres: portraits, nudes, landscapes, still lifes and even history painting, producing huge mythological or allegorical scenes, or compositions inspired by the spectacle of modern warfare, in particular World War One. His style is easily recognisable by its slim paint layer, refined colours, precise outlines, bold framings, and flattened perspectives borrowed from Japanese prints and photography.
The Félix Vallotton. Fire Beneath the Ice exhibition takes a fresh look at the artists work. In ten eloquently named sections, it explores the artists aesthetic, social and political motivations and his complex personality: Idealism and Purity of Line; Flattened perspectives; Repression and Lies; A Photographic Eye; The Tragic Violence of a Black Spot; Female Duets; Icy Eroticism; Opulent Substance; Modern Mythologies; This is War!
In each section, the works are grouped by affinity with the theme rather than chronogically or by genre. This transversal approach reveals the painters obstinate building of an highly personal and modern style, but nevertheless rooted in the long tradition of art. The exhibition therefore presents not only Vallottons best known masterpieces, but also paintings seldom or even never shown.
This thanks to the Musée dOrsays rich collection, the exceptional loans granted by Swiss museums, the generosity of the major American and European museums and that of many private collectors, through the mediation of the Félix Vallotton Foundation in Lausanne.
The last major exhibition in Paris of the Swiss-born French painter and engraver goes back to 1979 at the Petit Palais.