I don’t do portraits. I paint people in their surroundings.”
Loosely sketched in shimmering hues of emerald green, yellow, and lilac, this lavish pastel is a snapshot of a party of people playing cards in a richly decorated bourgeois interieur. A lady wearing an extravagant black hat is seated at a small table with a bluish green felt top, on which a deck of cards is laid out. Three other male players only appear as dark silhouettes and are partially cut off. A fringed lampshade hangs from the ceiling over the table. The room is lowly lit. Soft golden light emerges from a small table lamp in the back the salon, casting warm highlights on the walls and ceiling. A small ball-shaped topiary tree stands before a low table with a shiny silver tea set. There’s a tall ornate door in the back lined by several paintings and a honey-coloured curtain.
In the years just before the First World War, when Vuillard had become a commercially successful artist, he often depicted his primary social circle, who included Marcelle Aron, the hostess to this gathering. Her cousin Lucy Hessel was the wife of Jos Hessel, Vuillard’s dealer at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. She and Vuillard were engaged in a love affair at the time. The playwrights Tristan Bernard and Romain Coolus were also part of this group of friends.
In 1911/12 Vuillard produced two major paintings of similar soirées at the Salon of Marcelle Aron: one has been in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada until its restitution to its rightful owners in 2006, the second painting is now in a Swiss private collection (Salomon and Cogeval, no. IX-176 and IX-175). La partie de whist chez Marcelle Aron, is a characteristic example of Edouard Vuillard’s mature style.