Felix Vallotton is in my opinion one of the most underestimated modern artists. I haven’t heard about him in my art history lectures at university. He never gets to all those “best of classics”, “all art in the world you must know” and other books/articles of this type. And this is simply outrageous. Vallotton, a Swiss/French painter and printmaker, was associated with the Nabis but, to be honest, it is very difficult to pigeonhole him into one style. Or any particular style. Vallotton is Vallotton.
And here I want to introduce to you some of the prints he was so famous for. Enjoy and tell us what you think about him in the comments!
1. La Paresse (Laziness)
In 1891 Vallotton executed his first woodcut. The many woodcuts he produced during the 1890s were recognized as innovative and established Vallotton as a leader in the revival of woodcut as a true artistic medium. In his prints, Vallotton was always searching for visual elements with a ‘decorative appeal’ and La Paresse (Laziness) is a very good example. Vallotton created this seductive image using lines, surfaces and contrasts in the block of wood: a naked woman and a cat were cut out in white surfaces, and he positioned them against a background of luxuriant patterns.
The naked woman and the cat! How cool is that!
2. The Lie
Vallotton reached the highest point with his woodcuts in 1898 when he produced a series of ten woodcuts entitled Intimités (Intimacies), for the La Revue blanche, the French avant-garde art and literary magazine. This magazine was super-important – it was published between 1889 and 1903 and had many influential contributors such as Toulouse Lautrec. The set of woodcuts shows the tensions between men and women, and it became so successful that it was circulated in magazines and books all over Europe and the States.
3. The Money
In Intimités, Vallotton disintegrates love between man and woman, blaming women for being insincere and scheming creatures, who often brought an element of spitefulness and dominance into relationships. Regarding his style, Vallotton was influenced by post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and especially by the Japanese woodblock prints: a large exhibition of Ukiyo-e prints had been presented at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1890, and Vallotton, like many artists of his era an enthusiast of Japonism, collected these prints.
4. The Flute
His woodcut subjects included domestic scenes, bathing women, portraits, and several images of street crowds and demonstrations – including several scenes of police attacking anarchists. He usually depicted types rather than individuals, eschewed the expression of strong emotion, and used a lot of ironic humor.
5. The Manifestation
During the 1890s Vallotton also became more politically engaged and communicated his sentiments through his prints, which were printed in Paris’s literary and political publications such as Le Rire, Le Revue blanche, L’Assiette au beurre, and Le Courrier français, as well as in Pan (Berlin), Die Jugend(Munich), and the U.S. publications Scribner’s and The Chap-Book.
6. A Game of Poker
Vallotton died of complications from cancer just one day after his 60th birthday, on December 29th, 1925. His woodcuts were widely disseminated in periodicals and books in Europe as well as in the United States, and have been suggested as a significant influence on the graphic art of Edvard Munch, Aubrey Beardsley, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.