Vuillard, for his part, elevated the everyday rituals of his mother, painting her seated at her vanity table, fixing her hair. There’s a striking tenderness in these images. Vuillard once termed his mother his “muse,” and even when absent from his paintings, she feels present in the draped fabrics; a seamstress, her eye for color is apparent in his patterns. In one of his most famous paintings, The Flowered Dress (1891), his mother is presented alongside other women, all of them sewing. But while the others are shadowed, their dark clothes fading into the background, Vuillard is able to communicate his love for his mother by anointing her with light. She wears a black dress clustered with white clematis-shaped flowers and tied with an orange belt like a kimono, her body slightly turned away from the viewer.
The detritus of domesticity is something that deeply informed Vuillard’s sense of intimism. Many of his paintings center candlesticks and scraps of lace tablecloth, old satchels hanging from hooks in the wall. His subjects are often knickknacks placed on shelves and desks. These overlooked items reveal far more than they initially suggest.
The ritual of eating becomes almost sanctified under Vuillard’s gaze. His lithograph The Hearth (1899) focuses only the apparatuses of cooking, pots and pans huddled around the fire. Here, these objects, normally concealed in cupboards, hidden out of sight, are rendered in reds and citrus yellows.