Have you ever heard of Felix Vallotton? I except not. I might also ask if you have heard of the Scottish Colourists – artists such as Francis Cadell, John Duncan Fergusson, Leslie Hunter and Samuel Peploe? There may be a few more positive responses, but I expect not too many of you are fully aware of their work. There is however an intriguing stylistic link betweem Vallotton and the Scottish Colourists, which may well relate to the fact that the Colourists spent their early careers in France, absorbing many of the French techniques of the time including vibrant colours into their work. The different artists in Paris and Scotland also seemed to enjoy painting life as they saw it.
Felix Vallotton (1865 – 1925), another example of an artist who was born in one country (Switzerland) and moved to another (France), was in his day one of Paris’ most famous artists but is little-known outside France. As his often the case, his early work was quite traditional, but then he began to find his mark both as an illustrator for prints and as a painter who portrayed some of the more risqué sides of Parisian life where men and women met, often in red surroundings, had their liaisons, and then parted, possibly never to see each other again.
In addition, Vallotton painted portraits of family, friends and art patrons such as Gertrude Stein and then he continued his theme of ladies on the edge of Parisian life, before the First World War brought that cultured side of life in Paris to an end, after which he reverted to paintings and prints about the war, of which he was a supporter.
Thereafter, in the different era after the First World War, his work changed towards more abstract landscapes with twisted trees and patterned fields, still with an Impressionist twist, and still-lives that often contain colours that relate back to the war.
A fascinating retrospective of one of France’s hidden secrets, not to be missed.