Félix Vallotton is perhaps the chameleon of the Nabis era. With a traditional start in academic and portrait painting, Vallotton mastered printmaking, portrait painting, wood engraving, Nabis-style genre scenes and nudes, and then moved on to Realism before leading the way for the New Objectivity movement. He did not stop at painting, however, but tried his hand at writing no fewer than eight plays and three novels. Whilst these may not have been the most significant or even best-selling tomes of their time, it was still a remarkable achievement. After adding landscapes, still life painting, and sculptures to his already impressive repertoire, the resulting impression of this artist is that he was not only a style chameleon, but a fantastic over-achiever.
But why was Vallotton so eager to try his hand at so many different mediums, styles, and genres? Could it be that he was simply overdosing on coffee, or was he, in fact, trying to carve out a niche for himself in a highly competitive environment? It can absolutely be acknowledged that he succeeded in doing this, for certain with his work amongst the Nabis, and also in his eventual expertise in woodcuts. Why then continue adapting and reworking what he had already come to master? In all of his trials, successes, and celebrity, one theory is that Félix Vallotton never truly found the voice that he felt that he should have. In this quest to achieve perfection, he may certainly have acquired a great deal of prowess working in certain fields, but there was always a ‘next goal’. Something bigger, something better, and something to be strived for. In this lies the key to innovation and great artistic breakthrough. While many are happy settling with a success they have achieved, it is the Steve Jobs, Albert Einsteins, and Mark Zuckerbergs of this world who step beyond that to not only ask for success, but to revolutionise. Within this group, Vallotton has definitely earned his place.
For your chance to catch a rare glimpse of some of Vallotton’s elusive artworks, hidden for years in private collections, get yourself over to Zurich! The Kunsthaus, Zurich, is hosting Félix Vallotton. Precious Moments, an exhibition combining the gallery’s own impressive collection with those of private collectors, running until the 15th September. If you really can’t make this exciting exhibition, go ahead and grab a copy of the new Félix Vallotton by Nathalia Brodskaïa.
– Fiona Torsch