Felix Vallotton tried his hand in many art forms, ranging from landscapes to woodcuts to printmaking. While he is probably most celebrated for his nudes, his woodcuts speak more to his talent as an artist.
In his paintings, his palette choice, technique, and subjects (usually naked women) manage to capture the attention on any onlooker. But his woodcuts contain a richer and more mysterious meaning.
The woodcut entitled Money (below) presents a scene between a man shrouded in darkness and a woman, whose white dress lends her an air of innocence. While at first I considered the man to be a predator and the woman to be a helpless victim of his advances, the title eventually convinced me that the woman probably plays a greater role than she first suggests. Rather an innocent, damsel in distress, could she instead be money-hungry prostitute luring her next client through cold demeanour?
Felix Vallotton, Money, 1898
That is the beauty of Vallotton’s woodcuts. Read More
When leafing through Felix Vallotton’s paintings, it is noticeable that he enjoyed painting group scenes. There is a group of men playing poker in The Poker Game, a group of men talking in The Five Painters, a group of men drinking in The Bistro, and a group of women bathing in The Turkish Bath and in Summer. He frequently portrayed groups of people socializing, but rarely do the genders mix. Men and women only come together if there is underlying sexual tension like in The Visit or The Red Room. Aside from that, it seems that in Vallotton’s world, men and women reside in separate spheres.
Of course, some of the segregation stems from social conventions of the period. During Vallotton’s time, it would have been highly inappropriate for a classy dame to play a round of poker or drink with the boys at the local tavern. But the segregation found in his paintings could also indicate Vallotton’s intimate thoughts on men and women.
The men can always be found in male-dominated spaces such as bars or studies, donning expensive tuxedos and perfectly manicured moustaches.
The Toast by Felix Vallotton, 1902
Oil on cardboard, 49 x 68 cm
Private collection, Paris
The women, on the other hand, are set against natural backgrounds, usually lounging about sans clothing. Read More
Sex sells. Or at least in today’s society, the marketing world strategically incorporates erotic imagery in advertisements to gain consumers’ attention. If the moniker “sex sells” is true for advertisements, could it also be true in art? In nude paintings, does the artist aim to “sell” something by enticing us with the image of a naked and supple body?
When looking through Felix Vallotton’s artistic catalog, the amount of nudity is great. Vallotton used naked women in any context, from nude women bathing to nude women playing with kittens.
Félix Vallotton, Nude Women with Cats, c. 1897-1898.
Oil on cardboard, 41 x 52 cm.
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
Vallotton, like most artists, appreciated beauty, including the beauty of the naked human body. But while the artist might have seen the beauty of the female form, what exactly does the observer experience when confronted with subtle eroticism? Read More