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Edouard Vuillard was a French painter who became one of the most prominent members of the Les Nabis group. The artist became primarily knows for his strong use of color and his subsequent inspiration from Japanese wood prints.
Jean-Edouard Vuillard was born and grew up in Cuiseaux, a city in the region of Bourgogne, France, in November 1868. His father was a captain retired from the naval infantry, who later became a tax collector. His mother was a seamstress and made corsets. After his father retired, and the family moved to Paris when Vuillard was about nine years old.
In Paris, young Vuillard studied at a Marist Brothers school and was late awarded a scholarship to study at the acclaimed Lycée Fontaine, which became Lycée Condorcet in 1883. Vuillard studied art and rhetoric and would copy several drawings of classical sculptures and Michelangelo’s artwork. At the Lycée, Vuillard would meet several artists that would later be part of the Les Nabis, amongst them was Ker Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, the writer Pierre Véber and Aurélien Lugné-Poe, who became an actor and theater director.
Edouard Vuillard left the Lycée in 1885, and he changed his initial idea of following his father’s footsteps and join the army, he would instead pursue a career as an artist. He entered Diogene Maillart’s studio, along with his friend and future brother-in-law, Ker Xavier Roussel, where they learned the rudiments of painting. Vuillard would later take courses ate Académie Julian as well as attend studios of prominent painters like Robert-Fleury’s and William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s.
Vuillard would fail for three times competitions to ingress the École des Beaux-Arts. However, his persistence would pay in his fourth try, being accepted in July 1887. His first teacher in the institution was Robert-Fleury and the next year, Jean-Léon Gérôme, an Academic historical painter. Two years later, he already had one of his artworks accepted for the Salon, a crayon portrait of his grandmother. Following a brief period serving the military, Vuillard finally went to become an artist.
Vuillard began to attend a meeting of artists that would be known as Les Nabis or The Prophets, semi-mystical, semi-secret club that set the transition from Impressionism to Symbolist and Abstract painting. The group was composed by Pierre Bonnard, and Felix Vallotton, amongst others. The group neutered a profound admiration for the artworks by Paul Cezanne and Paul Gaugin.
At some point, Vuillard became familiarized with Japanese wood prints, which impressed the artist. Said artworks became a pivotal reference to Vuillard’s post-Nabis artworks, especially his negation of the perspective, use of greatly contrasting colors, and economic and simplified form. The artist collected over eighty Japanese wood prints.