Based on his numerous nudes, one can surmise that Félix Vallotton loved women – he loved their beauty, their coquetry, even their flaws. But his affection for women never went beyond the canvas.
For many years, he led an affair with Hélène Chatenay, who was also his model for several of his paintings. Hélène was very dear and loyal to him, even growing close to the Vallotton family. But as Vallotton was devoted to his craft, not to Hélène, he left her for the elderly widow, Gabrielle Rodrigues. Vallotton didn’t even bother trying to hide his true motives for his engagement to Gabrielle Rodrigues – she came from a distinguished family of wealthy art dealers.
When looking at some of works, one can catch a glimpse in his character. Just like in his woodcut Money, converted his romantic affair with a woman into one of financial gain.
In letters to the Rodrigues family, he claims to love Gabrielle genuinely, but his betrayal to Hélène shows that he couldn’t love women; he only loved himself and his craft. Women were as important to him as the trees in his landscape and the flowers in his still lifes.
For a chance to see some of Vallotton’s works, visit the exhibition entitled Felix Vallotton: Fire and Ice at the Grand Palais National Galleries running until January 20, 2014. But if you can’t make it to France, you can admire his work from home – check out Natalia Brodskaia’s latest book Félix Vallotton in print and ebook format.
– D. R.