'Madame Hessel au sofa' ('Madame Hessel on the sofa'), 1900
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2009.
Oil on canvas
54.6 x 54.6cm
Accession Number WAG 6217
The French painter Edouard Vuillard lived and worked in Paris. He had a love of the theatre and became friendly with many intellectuals from the arts and theatre world. He is best remembered for his pictures of the 'Belle Epoque', a period when Paris was noted for stylish living (1880-1914).
Lucie Hessel, the wife of Vuillard's art dealer Jos Hessel, was a good friend of the painter for almost forty years. Vuillard painted her at different stages of her life, capturing her grace and strong personality. This portrait is distinct for its freshness and spontaneity, with Madame Hessel smiling at the viewer. The colours of the painting and the shadowing of Madame Hessel's face are particularly unusual for the period and demonstrate Vuillard's innovative style.
The collection of paintings shown hanging on the walls behind her are clearly included to suggest Madame Hessel's status as a woman of taste and wealth. The portrait is dated around 1900-01 when the friendship between Lucie and Vuillard began.