‘I am deep in a still life, the ordinary expedient of bad days, but by applying myself I manage to save the day. […] I keep up the still lifes and go from flowers to fruits, and from fruits to victuals; I’m not there yet and the work makes me take note of a series of little problems whose solutions I fruitfully amuse myself by trying to find’, Félix Vallotton wrote in his diary on July 9, 1919.
Still lifes came to the fore in Vallotton’s oeuvre from 1910 on. As a testing ground for shapes and forms, the genre let him explore composition. Bouquets of flowers are combined with various objects – in this case, a book and a print or brush and ink landscape. A tense dialogue arises between the sharp-cornered squares, the supple lines of the flowers, and the curves of the vase. The colour of the petals harmonises with the table cloth, both at odds with the rest of the palette, while the table and vase stand slightly off-centre. The dab of pale paint on the neck and rim of the vase reflects the light source, but Vallotton then takes some liberties with the shadows, sketching some in and leaving others out. The painting is structured by a series of triangles created by the arrangement of objects, shadows and light.
The highly composed still life, combining flowers with objects symbolising art and intellectual endeavours, and the Dutch-style rug on the table seem to gesture towards vanitas paintings: Vallotton was by now an old man in his twilight years.
Marina Ducrey, in collaboration with Katia Poletti, Félix Vallotton, 1865-1925: l’œuvre peint, 3 vol., Lausanne, Fondation Félix Vallotton, Zurich, Institut suisse pour l’étude de l’art, Milan, 5 Continents Editions, 2005: n. 1609.
Sasha M. Newman (ed.), Félix Vallotton, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Paris, Flammarion, 1992.