During the 1890s the Franco-Swiss artist Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) belonged to the group of artists known as Les Nabis (the prophets). This circle of young, avant-garde artists embarked on a new path whose highly decorative style of art was influenced by Gauguin and Japanese prints. The Van Gogh Museum has an important collection of works on paper by Les Nabis, which includes a large number of woodcuts by Vallotton.
The exhibition Félix Vallotton. Fire beneath the ice displays a mixture of paintings and prints. Around 60 paintings from various international museums, such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Kunsthaus Zürich, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago and various private collections, combined with some 40 prints from the Van Gogh Museum’s collection provide an overview of every facet of Vallotton’s oeuvre.
Felix Vallotton (1865-1925), La flûte from the print series Instruments de musique, 1896, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)Félix Vallotton attended the academy of art in Lausanne and moved to Paris in 1882 in order to continue his studies as a portrait painter. However, he has chiefly won international renown with his remarkable black-and-white woodcuts, which are unparalleled in style, technique and mood. An underlying tension or threat is always present in these works, although they also incorporate humorous elements that often harbour social criticism.
As a painter Vallotton developed a highly personal style, drawing his inspiration from Japanese print art, the work of the Neoclassical French master Ingres and photography. His style is characterised by a smooth finish, a cool atmosphere and a sophisticated use of colour.
Vallotton deliberately detached himself from the world which he observed sharply in all its cruelty and absurdity. This observing attitude is a feature of both his paintings and his woodcuts. What turmoil do his smooth surfaces conceal, what emotions slumber beneath that cool detachment?
The exhibition has been organised by the Musée d’Orsay and the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais in Paris, in collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum, the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Tokyo and Nikkei Inc, and enjoys the special support of the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva and the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne. The exhibition can be seen in the Grand Palais in Paris until 20 January 2014. After Amsterdam it will travel to the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Tokyo.