Edouard Vuillard was born in 1868 in Cuiseaux, a tiny French town near the Swiss border. At age nine, he moved with his family to Paris. His father, a retired army officer, died several years later, leaving his mother, Marie, with three children and only a small income. She came from a family of textile designers, and to make a living she first operated a lingerie shop and then a dressmaking business from the succession of Paris apartments that the family occupied. Edouard lived with his mother, his greatest supporter, for her entire life, surrounded by the women and fabrics that filled her work room.
In 1888 Vuillard studied briefly at the École des Beaux-Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme, but disliked the conservative approach. Later that year he moved to the Académie Julian, where he met other young artists who rejected both academic art and impressionism. Vuillard associated with this group, known as the Nabis. He first made small expressive paintings of interiors using flats bands of color, then began adding detailed surface patterns to his work, creating enchanting paintings of women in domestic interiors. By the turn of the century he was making striking, large-scale decorative wall paintings and folding screens, and later, portraits of prosperous French families. While Vuillard's art remained figurative, his intense focus on the picture surface itself—the flattened, sometimes unpainted support patterned with figures that blended with their surroundings—would foreshadow elements of abstraction in the twentieth century.
Vuillard died at the beginning of World War II, just as the
quiet, domestic world he had painted for so many years was about
to be shattered.