Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review- Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet at the Royal Academy from 30 June to 29 September 2019

Exhibition Review- Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet at the Royal Academy from 30 June to 29 September 2019

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Royal Academy of Arts presents a survey of paintings and prints by the Swiss artist Félix Vallotton (1865–1925). This will be the first exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK since 1976. Although the artist is admired in his native Switzerland, Vallotton remains relatively little known elsewhere.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The exhibition features around 100 works from public and private collections across Europe and the U.S and includes representations from every period of the artist’s career.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The first section of the exhibition presents a number of Vallotton’s work from the 1880s, following his arrival in Paris at the age of sixteen. Although he was influenced by contemporary movements such as Impressionism, the artist followed more closely artists of the Northern and Dutch traditions with works like his earliest known self-portrait, Self-portrait at the Age of Twenty, 1885 and the painting The Sick Girl, 1892.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Vallotton at this time had yet to find his own particular artistic style, however in the early 1890s he formed ties with the Nabis, a group of avant-garde artists including Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. It was around this time that Vallotton began to experiment with print making especially Japanese woodblock printing. These type of illustrations were very popular in newspapers and magazines and Vallotton made a steady income from magazine illustrations, he became the principal illustrator for the influential journal La Revue blanche.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Many of his prints were satirical, the series Intimités, 1897–98 and paintings of interior scenes, 1898–99, such as The Visit, 1899  exposes some of hypocrisies of the Parisian bourgeoisie.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

When La Revue blanche closed, Vallotton entered into marriage with a wealthy widow Gabrielle Rodrigues-Henriques in 1899 and concentrated on painting. His work from this time often featured psychological dramas in domestic interiors, the artist plays with perspective and lighting to create idea that behind the familiar lurks all kinds of dark secrets.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This theme is carried on from around 1904  when the female nude became Vallotton’s principal subject. This section of the exhibition presents works such as Nude Holding her Gown, 1904 and Models Resting, 1905. The nudes seem consumed by shame and unwilling to play the game of being alluring, this style was very different from other painters of the period.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Often the nudes are in pairs and look to be in conversation whilst in the background mirrors and reflections offer a dark background to the light foreground.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A section focuses on paintings and prints produced during the First World War, the artist’s initial enthusiasm for the war was changed by a visit to the trenches and his portfolio This is War!, 1916 features splattered red ink on the cover, while the six images, in black and white, capture the danger and terror of the ordinary soldier fighting at the front.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The exhibition concludes with a selection of Vallotton’s landscapes and still-life paintings. The landscapes like Sandbanks on the Loire, 1923 have a surreal quality with limited colour and simple compositions.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This fascinating exhibition offers a rare opportunity to discover the often original and innovative work of Felix Vallotton, this often overlooked artist provides a very different perspective of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Vallotton indicates with his work that it is a city that underneath its bonhomie harbours dark secrets. This psychological interplay plays a major part in Vallotton’s later works especially his nudes series. It is possible that the artist’s painting and prints were a little too close to the mark for the wealthy patrons from the Parisian bourgeoisie which exposed many of their less pleasing qualities. This may be part of the reason, why his work was not highly valued at the time and why it is only in recent years that his originality and innovation have been more widely recognised.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

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