Much of painter Édouard Vuillard's work was focused on the depiction of contemporary domestic scenes. His mother, widowed when the artist was still a young boy, worked as a textile designer and dressmaker to support her family, and Vuillard, who lived with her until her death in 1928, was deeply influenced by his experiences of family life. Often described as an "intimist," he frequently used his mother and sister as models, depicting them in household surroundings of patterned wallpaper and fabrics. Like many other Nabi artists, Vuillard was inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints to elevate quotidian scenes as suitable motifs for art. His Parisian interpretation of this concept is visible throughout the 1899 portfolio Landscapes and Interiors, of which The Cook is one example. This group of lithographs, widely considered to be Vuillard's most important print project, was published by Ambroise Vollard, a central figure in the print revival of the 1890s. In all, the artist made approximately seventy printed compositions over the course of his career.
Vuillard engaged in many aspects of the cultural life of Paris and, as a Nabi, sought to intertwine his artistic projects with the realms of theater, literature, and music. In addition to designing sets for plays by Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, he created posters and theater programs, formats which demonstrate the ways in which printed art extended beyond the traditional realm of the art collector at this time. The program shown here includes scenes in Vuillard's typical style, so flattened and heavily patterned as to nearly obscure the subject. Originally folded to form a cover, this sheet represents a scene from the play on the right, and an advertisement for La Revue blanche, a literary and art journal, on the left.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 34.