Christie's auction house offered for sale one of the rarest art collections of the 20th century. The Hommage à la famille Hessel: Mécènes et Modèles auction sale included 17 lots by Édouard Vuillard. This most important and comprehensive collection of the artist’s works ever, was ended with total sale EUR 5,3 mln. 
This rich and original selection assembled by Jos and Lucy Hessel, renowned art dealers and ardent patrons, gives an unprecedented glimpse into the couple’s unique vision as collectors unveiling their intimate working relationship with the artist.

The couple first met Edouard Vuillard in 1895. As both a financial support and muse to the artist, the Hessels inspired a creative period of over 40 years in Vuillard’s eclectic and prolific career. A Jew of Belgian origin, Jos Hessel was the exclusive seller of his works, while Lucy was a muse and mistress.

This painting was offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York and sold for $5,262,500.

Left: Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). Autoportrait à la canne et au canotier

Jean-Édouard Vuillard was born in 1868 in Cuiseaux. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to Paris, where his eyes were opened to the arts and academia. He would eventually co-found the artists’ group Les Nabis — the brotherhood — together with  Ker-Xavier Roussel and Maurice Denis, and others including Paul Sérusier and Pierre Bonnard.
In the 1890s, Vuillard explored the subjects that made him famous: interiors where his mother, sister and the workers in the corset factory went about their daily tasks, surrounded by speckled wallpaper. Painting "Les couturières" is among the most important canvases from the period of Vuillard’s association with Les Nabis×The Nabis (Les Nabis), a group of French painters, are difficult to classify as fully belonging to a major artistic trend like Impressionism, Expressionism, or Art Nouveau. Though contemporaries of all these powerful movements, the Nabi artists directed their art along a narrow and winding course somewhere in between. read more . With its radical pictorial and spatial experiments, Les couturières heralds many of the most important artistic developments of the early 20th century, including the Fauves’ bold apposition of colours, the juxtaposition of planes of the Cubists, and Expressionism’s distortion of forms.

Left: Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Les couturières, 1890. 18¾ x 22⅝ in (47.5 x 57.5 cm). This painting was sold for £5,081,250 on 4 February 2009 at Christie’s London.

Although financially successful in his lifetime, Vuillard lived with his widowed mother, a dressmaker, until her death, and many of his works deal with domestic and dressmaking scenes set in his mother’s bourgeois home. The influence of his mother’s work can be seen in Vuillard’s art. The combination of living and working space is clearly visible in the painting "Sweeper (La balayeuse). 346 Rue Saint-Honoré", painted in the year of the meeting with Hessel family. This painting is similar to works of Dutch artists, which Vuillard admired in the Louvre.

In the paintings and prints of his Nabi period, he often created flattened space by filling his compositions with the contrasting rich patterns of wallpaper and women’s dresses, as seen in paintings such as Woman Sweeping (1899–1900). Because of his preference for the painting of interior and domestic scenes, he is often referred to as an "intimist," along with his friend Pierre Bonnard.

1.1. Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), La balayeuse, 346 rue Saint-Honoré, 1895. This lot is offered in Hommage à la famille Hessel : mécènes et modèles on 23 March 2018 at Christie’s in Paris
1.2. Vuillard, Édouard: Woman Sweeping, oil on cardboard by Édouard Vuillard, 1899–1900; in the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Jean Edouard Vuillard. La balayeuse, 346 rue Saint-Honoré
La balayeuse, 346 rue Saint-Honoré
Jean Edouard Vuillard
1895, 33×50.8 cm

"La balayeuse, 346 rue Saint-Honoré" became the "star" of the sale at Christie's. The auction house took EUR 2,143,500
for it, whereas the estimate of the picture was on request.

At the same time, "Sweeper" demonstrates the gradual transition of Vuillard from the flat colors of the 1890s to the more grouped paints, as well as to a more detailed depiction of the space in which a sense of depth is created. Colors are no longer used simply to describe, but convey emotions.

Young Henri Matisse (a big fan and collector of Vuillard), following in the footsteps of his predecessor, caught this subtle chromatic "mood" balance, which later led him to Fauvism.

Left: Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940). Lucy Hessel, 1924. This work with estimate price EUR 100,000 - EUR 150,000 was sold for  EUR 307,500 on 23 March 2018 at Christie’s Paris.
Vuillard painted this world as if he were weaving a tapestry - one of his major visual sources in the 1890s - using the whole range of textured effects. The most striking example of this period is painting "Misia et Vallotton à Villeneuve" (1899), depicted the brilliant pianist Misia Natanson, the muse of Vuillard, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard.
This work was sold for $17,750,000 in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in New York

Left: Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Misia et Vallotton à Villeneuve, 1899

Hessel's family became not only important patrons and loyal friends of Vuillard, but also his constant models. His closeness with the patron of the artist reveals in an informal portrait, which was previously estimated at 80-120 thousand euros. Here the author allowed himself to add humorous touches to the image of the sitter with a cigarette, which was distracted from reading the newspaper. However, the hard, almost frightening view of Jos Hessel recalls his status as a rich and strong man, one of the most outstanding collectors and traders of works of art of the twentieth century.
Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Portrait de Jos Hessel, painted in 1905. 86.5 x 66.5 cm. Despite the declared price of €80,000-120,000, the painting was sold for a bag in half: €40,000 on 23 March 2018 at Christie’s in Paris.

The painting on the background "Houses along a road" (1881) by Paul Cezanne could tell about Hessel's kind of occupation. The art dealer bought the canvas early in his career, and now it is part of the Hermitage collection in St. Petersburg. In a sense of respect Vuillard gives tribute to Cezanne as the "father of modernism" and his patron and friend - as a supporter and a connoisseur of the avant-garde art. Perhaps, this work most vividly illustrates the famous phrase of the artist, "I don't make portraits. I paint people in their homes."

By the way, by selling one of the works of Cézanne, Hessel bought the manor, which was named in honor of the artist - "Clos Cézanne». It is possible that it is exactly the "Houses along a road". Land near the house and its owners imprinted on the landscape "Le matin au jardin (Morning in the Garden)" by Vuillard, that also put up for sale with a preliminary estimate of 400-600 thousand Euro.
Jean Edouard Vuillard. Le matin au jardin, Clos Cézanne
Le matin au jardin, Clos Cézanne
Jean Edouard Vuillard
1924, 129.7×134.5 cm

And it's perhaps the biggest surprise. The painting failed to reach estimate price when it came under the hammer for EUR 295,500.

Unfortunately, the patronage of Hessel and other philanthropists did not do Vuillard any good. Thanks to rich patrons, he did not have to sell his paintings in galleries, and in the 1900s the artist's productivity declined. With time, the work of Les Nabis×The Nabis (Les Nabis), a group of French painters, are difficult to classify as fully belonging to a major artistic trend like Impressionism, Expressionism, or Art Nouveau. Though contemporaries of all these powerful movements, the Nabi artists directed their art along a narrow and winding course somewhere in between. read more came to be regarded as conservative in comparison to Cubist, Expressionist and abstract styles. After many years, his name and work were not so well known as the names and works of fellow contemporaries of Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso, and popularity only came in the middle of the twentieth century.
Despite of this, Vuillard maintained his painterly aesthetic until his death in June 1940, remaining steadfastly committed to his artistic beliefs. "Lucy Hessel et Lulu, rue de Naples dit 'Le Télégramme" was painted by Vuillard when he was in his 60s, and it highlights the artist’s lifelong dedication to domestic interior portraits.

Left: Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940), Lucy Hessel et Lulu, rue de Naples dit 'Le Télégramme", painted circa 1933-35. Estimate: €150,000-250,000. This lot was sold for EUR 247,500 on 23 March 2018 at Christie’s in Paris.

In addition, works of such artist as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and other modernists, who were patronized by Hessel, were also sold on 23 March, 2018 at Christie's auction.

Maurice Denis (1870-1943). Légende de chevalerie ou Trois jeunes princesses (Première version à la gouache), 1893 was sold for 
EUR 703,500. Estimate price: EUR 250,000 - EUR 350,000.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Portrait de Madame Hessel ou La Dame en Rouge, 1901 was sold for EUR 379,500. Estimate price: EUR 400,000 - EUR 600,000.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). La toilette, 1907 was sold for EUR 403,500. Estimate price: EUR 300,000 - EUR 500,000.

Based on materials from Christie's, Artnet and others.