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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.

Félix Vallotton, Woman with a Black Hat, 1908 Oil on canvas, 81 x 64.8 cm The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Félix Vallotton, Woman with a Black Hat, 1908
Oil on canvas, 81 x 64.8 cm
The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

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.

Felix Vallotton, Money, 1898 Woodcut

Felix Vallotton, Money, 1898
Woodcut

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.

www.felix-vallotton.com/

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 Woodcut

Felix Vallotton, Money, 1898
Woodcut

That is the beauty of Vallotton’s woodcuts. Read More

New Picture

Sur la plage, 1899.
Oil on cardboard, 42 x 48 cm.
Private collection.
Courtesy of Kunsthaus Zurich.

Félix Vallotton is perhaps the chameleon of the Nabis era. With a traditional start in academic and portrait painting, Vallotton mastered printmaking, portrait painting, wood engraving, Nabis-style genre scenes and nudes, and then moved on to Realism before leading the way for the New Objectivity movement. He did not stop at painting, however, but tried his hand at writing no fewer than eight plays and three novels. Whilst these may not have been the most significant or even best-selling tomes of their time, it was still a remarkable achievement. After adding landscapes, still life painting, and sculptures to his already impressive repertoire, the resulting impression of this artist is that he was not only a style chameleon, but a fantastic over-achiever. Read More