La partie fine, 1898
Peinture a la colle on board
29 . x 30 . in. / 74.5 x 78 cm.
Signed lower right: E. Vuillard
Galerie George Maratier, Paris
Purchased from the able in 1946 by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Hadorn.
Upon the death of Gertrude Hadorn, the subsequently Walter Hadorn, in 1985 the painting was given
to Mr. Hadorn’s niece by the Executors of the Hadorn Estate. Galerie Coray, Lugano
Kent fine Art, New York
La partie fine was painted circa 1989, at the same time that Pierre Bonnard executed the painting Jeune femme a la lampe, now in the collection of the Kunstmuseum, Bern. Significantly, it dates from a time when Vuillard and Bonnard were very close, both personally and in their work. In fact, their work of this period is sometimes difficult to distinguish. Both belonged to the Nabis group whose intellectual focus was the Revue Blanche. Maurice Denis, a third Nabi, wrote in 1890 “Un tableu – avant d’etre un cheval de bataille, une femme nue, ou une quelconque anecdote – est essentiellement une sur face plane recouverte de couleurs en un certain order assemblees” (A picture– before it is a battle horse, a female nude, or a commonplace anecdote – is essentially a surface plane covered with colors arranged in a certain order.)
The three figures in Vuillard’s painting are nearly incomprehensible as persons. The artist has transformed them into flattened forms in muted colors, cut-‐outs that interlock like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and divide the picture surface into a rhythmic pattern. Individual parts, shapes, and colors, such as the radiantly colorful object on the table (which relates to a similar object the Bonnard painting mentioned above) or the strange position of the arm and hand in the lower right defy precise definition; their function is of a strictly painterly nature.
Yet from the artist’s diaries, released in 1980, we know that the central, female figure in the composition is Misia Natanson, who, in addition to Vuillard’s mother, was the artist’s muse in his early years. Misia was the only person outside his family whom Vuillard painted over and over again. The male figure on the right is Thadee Natanson, Misia’s husband, who founded the Revue Blanche in 1893. Vuillard frequently contributed to the review with lithographic illustrations and cover designs. The Natansons were married in 1893, and many of the paintings in which Misia is portrayed are set in their salon on the rue St. Florentin near Place de la Concorde.
Misia Playing the Piano, also dated 1898, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is thought to be one of the first of the Misia pictures.
Though uncertain, the third figure on the left in La partie fine may be Cipa Godebski, Misia’s brother. This figure is similar to Misia at the Piano with her Brother Cipa Godebski in the collection of the Kunsthalle Karlsrabe in West Germany.
Signature documented by Hugo Wagner, Director, Kunstmuseum, Bern.
Ecole de Paris. Kunsthalle Berne, 1946
Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) / Charles Hug. Kunsthalle Basel, 1949 Europaische Kunst aus Berner Privatbesitz. Kunsthalle Bern, 1953 Les Nabis et leur temps. Galerie Krugier, Geneva, 1969
Sammlung Hadorn. Kunstmuseum, Bern, 1977
Chastel, A. Vuillard 1868-1940. Paris: 1946, ill. p. 39 (color).
Wagner, Hugo. Sammlung Hadorn. Bern: Kunstmuseum, 1977, ill. no. 133.