Painting: The Quiet Observer

Edouard Vuillard was, in his own words, an armchair painter. In search of subject matter, he rarely ventured beyond the Montmartre apartment he shared with his mother, and then only to the homes of his few close friends. The apartment also served as his mother's dressmaking shop; it was constantly alive with seamstresses and customers exchanging confidences about fittings, and cluttered with bolts of satins and silks, ribbons and pattern snippings. In this homely setting, Vuillard, who derisively referred to himself as "the in-timist," fashioned vignettes of quiet domesticity that suggest a less radiant, fin de siècle Vermeer.

This summer, marking...

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