|Vieille rue de Marseille, 1901|
That’s what happened to me. During a lunch with a good friend with impeccable taste, she mentioned a show at the Grand Palais: Félix Vallotton. And I didn’t know who that was.
I should have. He was painting during a period I know fairly well because I love Impressionism and his artworks start around 1887, which means he’s a contemporary of all the Impressionist masters: Pissaro, Sisley, Degas, Morisot, Cézanne, Renoir, Cassatt, Caillebotte... even the great Monet. He’s also a contemporary of the Post-Impressionists Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. All of them, I know. Vallotton? Walou ( which means “nothing” in the Arabic that has infiltrated today’s French slang).
So trusting Catherine’s taste, I head off on a sunny Monday to the Grand Palais.
First a word about the building. The Grand Palais was built for the 1900 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). That fell right in the middle of the Art Nouveau wave and its architecture nods to that movement. Neo-Baroque stone on the outside, but airy inside, thanks to an Eiffel-like structure - including intricate, flowing ironwork on the staircases - and of course to its glass roof.
|Femme fouillant dans un placard, 1901|
Across the street from the Grand Palais stands the Petit Palais, its little sister, also now a museum. It, too, dates from the Exposition Universelle.
But back to Félix Vallotton.
|La blanchisseuse, 1895|
This show covers the length and breadth of his art, with many works from the Musée d’Orsay and woodblocks from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. But many other canvases come from Swiss and American museums: Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Zurich, Chicago, Baltimore. And, of course, from private collections. It’s set up chronologically, more or less.
|Le provincial, 1909|
|Honfleur dans la brume, 1911|
I most like what I call Vallotton’s snapshots. There’s one of a laundress scurrying through the streets with a load of laundry in her arms. Another shows a woman’s silhouette searching for something in a cupboard; I imagine her being a maid because of her headscarf, or maybe she’s just the lady of the house doing some spring cleaning. Yet another, more dreamlike, shows a boy playing with a red ball.
|Le ballon, 1899|
|La valse, 1893|
For all these reasons, Félix Vallotton is hard to pigeonhole. Which makes it a safe bet that everyone will find something they can connect with. A good reason to go take a peek.
Félix Vallotton - Le feu sous la glace
3 avenue du Général-Eisenhower
75008 - Paris
Métro: Champs-Elysées - Clemenceau
until January 20, 2014
Daily except Tuesdays and holidays
Thursday & Friday 10 am to 8 pm,
Mon, Wed, Sat & Sun until 10 pm
12€ & 8€