Madame Hessel au Sofa

WAG 6217


Lucie Hessel, the wife of Vuillard's art dealer Jos Hessel, was a good friend of the painter for almost forty years. Vuillard painted her at different stages of her life, capturing her grace and strong personality. This portrait is distinct for its freshness and spontaneity, with Madame Hessel smiling at the viewer. The colours of the painting and the shadowing of Madame Hessel's face are particularly unusual for the period and demonstrate Vuillard's innovative style. The collection of paintings shown hanging on the walls behind her are clearly included to suggest Madame Hessel's status as a woman of taste and wealth. The portrait is dated around 1905 when Vuillard's friendship with Lucie was well established and eventually they became lovers. The Walker Art Gallery's painting is a version of a portrait that Vuillard made as a gift for Lucie, which is now in the Norton Simon collection in Pasadena, USA. Vuillard kept what became the Walker's version in his studio until his death in 1940.