A Vuillard acquired by the Mahj

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13/4/23 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme - Édouard Vuillard enters the collections of the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme. Thanks to funding from the Pro mahJ foundation, the museum has been able to acquire a large painting by the artist that had been in private hands since it entered the New York art market nearly forty years ago. This major acquisition, which fetched £88,200 (100,145 euros), will join the permanent collection of the Paris museum from June.

Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Madame Jean Bloch and her children, 1927
Glue paint on canvas - 195 x 175 cm
Paris, Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme
Photo : Christie’s
See the image in its page

This large portrait of Madame Jean Bloch and her children painted by Vuillard in 1927 is one of two life-size sketches preparing the family portrait commissioned from the artist by architect and collector Jean Bloch. As the third volume of Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval’s critical catalogue of the artist’s paintings and pastels [1], two preparatory sketches executed in 1927 and two versions of the final painting are known, one executed in 1927-1929, the other completed in 1929 and reworked in 1933 and 1934. All four are painted with glue on monumental canvases of similar size. All of them, with the exception of the canvas acquired by the Mahj, are kept in private collections, as are numerous sketches of each of the models represented. The two very accomplished preparatory studies are almost identical in composition to the final versions. Notable differences are that the Mahj sketch lacks the blue table on which the young boy is leaning and the lamp behind the youngest child. The panelling, tapestries, red silk walls, armchairs and 18th-century wall lamps framing the portrait of Pope Pius XI by Pietro Nelli are all already there.

This intimate scene of a moment of reading in the precious setting of the family home belongs to a late grouping of interiors with families executed by the artist in the 1920s and 1930s. Vuillard, then established as one of the most famous portrait painters, produced a large number of individual and collective social effigies. Among the latter are Madame Weil and her children in a private collection and Madame André Wormser and her children in the National Gallery in London, both of which depict maternal reading. If the portrait of Madame Bloch and her children in its final versions did not prove to be the most successful example of these intimate family portraits, it nevertheless remains a particularly important project for the artist, who worked intensively on it from 1927 to 1934 and mentioned it extensively in his Journal. It will allow the permanent exhibition to evoke the way of life of the Parisian Jewish elite of the interwar period, those families who were perfectly integrated into French society before the anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy government. Jean Bloch, who was also a director of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, was arrested on 12 December 1941 during the "notables" round-up. He was detained at the École Militaire and then at the Compiègne-Royallieu camp before being transferred to Drancy and deported in convoy 36 to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.

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