Édouard Vuillard. Mother and Sister of the Artist, c. 1893
On Saturday, April 12, the de Young, the Legion of Honor, and dozens of other museums and galleries around the world will participate in Slow Art Day. Like the National Day of Unplugging, which encourages people to power down their smartphones and socialize face-to-face, Slow Art Day’s mission is to enable new connections with art that otherwise might be lost in the everyday blur of activity. It gives participants the opportunity to expand how they look at and respond to art, with no artistic background or expertise needed. The approach is akin to meditation: simply choose a work of art and spend five to 10 minutes looking at it, without doing anything else.
My choice would be Vuillard. The FAMSF don't have any in their permanent collection (except one on loan from Dede Wilsey). But the current show at the Legion has several, as part of the post-impressionist show from the National Gallery of Art. This is the one that fascinated me.
Vuillard habitually depicted his seamstress mother (with whom he lived until her death in 1928) and his sister in claustrophobic images filled with a profusion of patterns: striped dresses, variegated fabrics, and flowered wallpaper.
In this work, as in many others, we find ourselves inside Vuillard's family circle. The thickly patterned, decorative background is claustrophobic and the two women seem poised on the verge of confrontation. The mother sits, squat, black, confident, almost masculine and intractable in the middle of the scene. The daughter, bowed over, dressed in yet another mix of dots, stripes and blocks is bowed, bowed over and looking like she wants to merge into the wallpaper or escape from the powerful figure dominating the room, pushed into the edge.
The palate is limited - black, grey, dark green, white with matte multicolored patterns and flattened space. The painting is small - 18 1/4 x 22 1/4" but it's a chapter on family relationships, right out of Freud.
Poetry ! : http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171514
Legion of Honor Blog: http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/blog/slow-art-day-de-young-and-legion-honor