Friday Art: Portrait of Theodore Duret by Edouard Villiard (1912)

Vuillard was a member of the Nabis, a group of French painters at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries interested in composing pictures mixing tons of colors and patterns, mostly to create interior scenes inspired by Japanese prints. Later on, he painted more realistic scenes, although he continued to fill his canvases with a multitude of vibrant colors.

Duret, the subject of this portrait, was an art critic who wrote kindly of impressionists and post-impressionists and fauvists and Nabis and other assorted then-contemporary painters. With other critics often savaging them, I can see why Vuillard paints Duret so positively. He’s got his room filled with papers stacked high, some paintings on the wall – including a representation of Whistler’s portrait of Duret as a younger man reflected in the mirror in the upper right.

In a way, this creates a narrative of sorts for Duret’s life – we see that fuzzy mirror image of the portrait of the young man, well dressed in dark tails, hat in hand, ready to go out and review some piece of high culture, maybe. And now he sits as an older accomplished man, dignified with stacks of papers and books across his desk.

And most importantly – he’s got a cat in his lap. The BEST sign of success there is. And a hat-tip to Vuillard for capturing, in those impressionistic brush strokes, the annoyed look on the cat’s face that her routine has been interrupted by posing for the artist.

Dunno… I guess I sorta see myself in that painting. Just an old dude with a kitty, in a room piled high with books and papers. Life goals, y’know? Meow.

Here’s a bonus Vuillard, I like this one a lot because of it’s bright colors – and you can tell he’s gotten a bit more realistic with it, La Salle Clarac from 1922.

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