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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).