Felix Vallotton

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Felix Vallotton

Felix_Vallotton’s Biography

Felix Vallotton was born in Lausanne (Switzerland) and after studying Latin and Greek, at 17 he traveled to Paris to learn painting at the Académie Julian. It progressed quickly, and in March of 1883 it surpassed the contest of access to the École des Beaux-Arts, being fourth in a promotion of seventy students.


Cinq peintres (“Five painters”), 1902-1903. From left to right, standing, the author (Felix Vallotton), seated, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Charles Cottet, and standing Ker-Xavier Roussel (Winterthur, Kunstmuseum).

In his early years he became interested in portraiture. From 1887 is his Portrait of the engraver Jasinski with hat, where he detached himself from the academic teachings. Occasionally he returned to Switzerland, where he painted landscapes in the Vaud region, and in Paris he became interested in engraving; he made two etchings inspired by Rembrandt and Jean-François Millet.

In 1891, he produced his first woodcuts and presented ten paintings in his debut at the Salon des Indépendants. He figured integrated in the group of the nabis, next to Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier. The nabis (prophets) took up the teachings of Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh, authors who had worked separately, and fused them in a defined style that would be transmitted to the later generation of Cézanne, Matisse, etc.

Vallotton continued his xylographic production, which in 1892 was praised in the magazine L’Art et l’Idée. An example of this genre is the Portrait of the painter Puvis de Chavannes (1898), a posthumous tribute to the controversial symbolist painter. He participated with four prints in another exhibition of the nabis, and his work in this field (especially illustrations for books and press) allowed him to subsist, combined with custom portraits.


Rest of the models, 1905 (Winterthur, Kunstmuseum).

At that time he concluded his masterpiece, La enferma (Paris, private collection), where he adjusted somewhat to the tradition, with a technical virtuosity and love for detail.

In 1893, Vallotton presented the work Bathroom on an Autumn Evening (Zurich, Kunsthaus) at the Salon des Indépendants, reflecting the transition from a descriptive painting to a synthetic figuration closer to the engraving. He exhibited with the nabis in the gallery of Ambroise Vollard in Paris (1897) and two years later in the Durand Ruel of the same city. In 1900 he obtained French nationality.

Important milestone in his career was the exhibition of a dozen of his paintings in the Sezession of Vienna (January 1903), which deserved the congratulations of Gustav Klimt and Ferdinand Hodler. His production continued to focus on interiors and landscapes: Locquirec Landscape (Moscow, Pushkin Museum), Sleeping Woman (col. Part.), Lady on the Piano (1904, St. Petersburg, Ermitage). In 1906 he produced an important series of nudes, traveled to Rome, Florence and Pisa, and the following year he visited Naples.

In 1908, Vallotton showed work in the Sezession in Munich and in the Exhibition of the Golden Fleece in Moscow, where numerous pieces were sold. The following year, he participated in the founding of the Ranson Academy, with Vuillard, Bonnard and others, and the Kunstlerhauss in Zurich gave him an individual exhibition. He exhibited 49 works in the Druet gallery in Paris, and his art came through other exhibitions in London, Prague, Stockholm … They were years of commercial success for Vallotton, which led to his brother Paul opening an art gallery in Lausanne. However, the First World War affected its sales until it caused economic problems. He made several works inspired by the conflict. He tried to enlist, but was rejected because of his age.

After his success at the Salon d’Automne, he settled in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the winter of 1920, although he visited several regions in the following four years. He exhibited with his usual dealer, Druet, and in 1925 at the new Salon des Tuileries in Paris. In December of that year, he was hospitalized and died after an operation, one day after his 60th birthday.

In 1998, a foundation was established in Lausanne for the study and dissemination of Vallotton’s art.

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