Edouard Vuillard
entre 1907 et 1908
peinture à la colle sur toile
H. 230,0 ; L. 164,0 cm.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Edouard Vuillard (1868 - 1940)
Rez-de-chaussée, Pavillon amont

Around 1900, Vuillard's career moved into a new creative period. His painting style developed under the influence of Monet's Impressionism, with paintings that were filled with sunlight and woven through with brighter colours. The Path, one of the three decorative panels produced for the princes Antoine and Emmanuel Bibesco between 1900 and1908 (with The Lilac Trees and The Haystack), is particularly representative of this new style. Amongst the sunlit trees and undergrowth, at the end of a path that opens up the painting, Lucy Hessel poses in a light mauve dress.
For several years, Lucy and Vuillard had had a much talked-about love affair, under the apparently indifferent regard of her husband, Jos Hessel, the painter's dealer and friend. Naturally, Lucy became one of Vuillard's favourite models, and The Path is the largest portrait that he ever did of her.
Just as for The Haystack, the painter here takes his inspiration for the composition of his painting directly from a photograph. In it, we see Lucy and her dog Basto, the wooden bench, and the path, positioned exactly as in the painting. However, Vuillard did not just "copy" photographs that he had taken himself. He regarded photographs as sketches that brought back "a thousand memories" for him. Much later on, in the 1920s and 1930s, when he decided to rework The Haystack and The Path, unsatisfactory paintings in his view, he used his old photographs merely as an aide-mémoire. This was when he wrote in his Journal, on 15 January 1939, one of his most revealing reflections: "There is a decidedly higher importance in the feeling of coloured sensation [...] after this, the idea of the trompe l'oeil is sterile, or at least limited".