Edouard Vuillard, Madame Jean Bloch et ses enfants
Acquisition of a work by Édouard Vuillard
On March 3, 2023, the mahJ acquired Madame Jean Bloch et ses enfants (1927), an exceptional work by French painter Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), at a public auction in London.
This large canvas (195 x 175 cm) is one of two preparatory sketches for a work completed in 1929, commissioned by the architect and collector Jean Bloch (1884-1942).
For the artist, Gilberte Bloch (née Liewer), poses in the family apartment at 73, Quai d'Orsay, in a paneled living room with 18th century furniture. In this intimate scene, around the time of the reading, she is represented with her children Thierri, Giselle and Claude, and their governess, who can be seen on the left of the canvas.
Vuillard's work depicts the lifestyle of a Jewish elite in Paris between the two world wars. The work testifies to the social success of these families, perfectly integrated into French society, and to the cultural environment in which their children were raised. This existence will be brutally interrupted, a little more than ten years later, with the German Occupation and the anti-Semitic policy of the Vichy government. Jean Bloch was a director of the “Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs” organization and an ceramics enthusiast - he supported the publication of the Répertoire de la faïence française - and was arrested on December 12, 1941 during the "notables" round-up, along with 742 other men. After being detained in several camps, he was transferred to Drancy and deported in convoy 36 to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.
Vuillard painted this work at the age of 50. His social life had moved from the theatrical and literary circles of the 1890s to high society, into which he was introduced by the brothers Gaston and Joss Bernheim, his merchants. He painted portraits of the Parisian aristocracy and wealthy Jewish families (the term for French Jewish families at the time), such as the David-Weill and Wormser families. The artist painted many works for this Jewish bourgeoisie attracted by the arts, which Marcel Proust had visited a few years earlier.
The large-format sketch acquired by the mahJ is close to the dimensions of the final work and is very well done. It is characteristic of Vuillard's finest late works, with a very free execution, a lively and rapid touch and a fluidity that is not found in the final composition. Here the artist fully succeeds in blending the figures into the background.
A major acquisition, the portrait of Madame Bloch and her children will make it possible to evoke, within the permanent exhibition of the mahJ, the "apogee" of Franco-Judaism, before the disillusionment caused by the "status of the Jews" of October 1940 enacted by the Vichy government.
Financed by the Foundation Pro mahJ, with the support of its generous donors, the work will join the museum's walls in spring 2023. Thanks to the American friends fund, US-based donors can contribute to this acquisition which represents a major enrichment of the mahJ’s collections.