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Modern Portraits

Explore how early modern painters pushed the boundaries of traditional portraiture.

Interior, Mother and Sister of the Artist

Édouard Vuillard
(French, 1868–1940)

1893. Oil on canvas, 18 1/4 x 22 1/4" (46.3 x 56.5 cm)

Vuillard was not as interested in recording his subjects’ precise likenesses as he was in capturing the nature of their relationship and environment. Vuillard’s mother and sister, who both lived and worked as seamstresses, are depicted in their home. The mother is the central figure in the portrait, providing gravity to the picture with her dark costume, strong posture, and straightforward gaze. The daughter, by contrast, looks downward, leaning against a wall whose dotted wallpaper pattern almost swallows her. The casual setting, with its extreme angles and patterns, creates a slightly claustrophobic space that feels as if it might fall in on the dominant Madame Vuillard.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

The context or environment in which a situation occurs.

A representation of a particular individual.

A series of events, objects, or compositional elements that repeat in a predictable manner.

What a figure is wearing.