Edouard Vuillard

Morning In the Garden at Vauxcresson, 1937

Here is a painting of a country house with its lady visiting her garden in the morning. The house sits in the dark beneath the canopy of a tree, but the woman and the garden are in a bright, clarified sunlight that makes the blooms pop and lends dazzle even when you look to the house that sits above in the shade.

When I look at this painting I see unrequited love writ large. It seems voyeuristic in its view, the artist’s eye at a distance from his subject, perhaps hidden among a crowd of flowers. The delicate woody stems in the foreground move in graceful curves that might almost outline human limbs, crouching men, a multitude that hold back to watch the lady in her garden. There is a fence between these spirits and the woman, between the artist and the woman. Indeed, whether meant or just a trick of perspective, this same fence rises in the painting and seems to cut her off from the green and wild side of the garden leaving her in a bare and sandy patch behind which we see rows of soldiering roses bristling with indignant precision.

The closer to the house we go, the more we sense control. The house reaches out to the woman herself. She is clad in a kimono resonant with the camellia pink of the structure’s walls. They are of a kind, the house and the woman, things to be owned, to be showed off. And how she is shown off in this painting! In this riotous, extravagant burst of floral beauty there is nothing to attract the eye like her. I never doubt the pure, poetic power of her charm. Her hair done simply in a chignon and wearing a shapeless kimono thrown on to do no more than spare the neighbors from shock, she almost reeks of sexual power. We cannot look away. And perhaps we are not alone in that. Is that a figure at the second floor, left hand window? Is he watching her now, the man who owns her? I sense a terrible judgment by her artist toward her keeper, a deep resentment. Without seeing a stroke of paint I imagine a corpulent, self-important little man whose breath stinks of breakfast pork and thick, exotic coffee.

I think the artist adores the woman in the garden, loves her, but secretly. She is a married woman and not to him. She is married to that figure above, in the house. He imagines to himself that she could and will be his. He will free her from her terrible bondage to that insufferable man above and she will love him for it. He will do this, but he is so entranced by the simple elegance of her in this place and at this time that for now he can only paint. And he is so involved in capturing the essence of this thing that has enraptured him, his mind never comprehends what his hand has rendered, that on this morning in this buttery sun she is looking at nothing. She simply stares, head down, and concentrates her will, bewitching the house in the colors of her robe; those spots of light against the walls are the dazzles of her glamour, her enchantment.

She concentrates her will on the poor artist whom she mocks, who will die loving her.

Who has made her immortal.

14 Responses to Edouard Vuillard

  1. Lieu says:

    It looks like she’s leaning against a wall and there’s a chain link fence in front of her. You can see the fence post in the middle of the flowering bramble. She’s on a dirt path but there’s just an open field beyond the fence. She’s looking at it as though she’s contemplating leaving her well tread path. Maybe she’s contemplating leaving that worn out marriage and moving toward freedom. She looks as though she’s emerging from the darkness also.

  2. cathy says:

    Ok, so now you have to write a story about the people in the painting, I want to know more about them.

  3. adam says:

    I assumed she is some poor Japanese lady that some rich southern american bought and brought home, she doesn’t speak the language, and is homesick, but her culture forbids her to do anything about it. So she spends her days in this garden, that the man in a vain and futile attempt to win her affections had planted for her, thinking of home, longing for the cherry blossoms, and thinking about how to build her robot army.

  4. Lisa M. says:

    There is an actual man in this painting, and I think you have missed him–only his face and a hand are visible.. To locate the man, draw imaginary lines to divide the painting into quarters. In the lower left quarter, up towards where the lines intersect in the center, a man kneels amid the foliage. He and the woman meet each others’ gaze, she looking down over the fence to him, he crouching, looking up, his hand clearly recognizable as he holds out a large white flower to her. His face, slightly concealed by a large pink flower, is in profile, and he is wearing a gray hat, resembling a pith helmet, or maybe a doughboy helmet from WWI. Maybe he is the spirit of her lover who died in the war. Maybe he is a lower-class gardener with darker skin. For sure it is a secret unspoken communication. Has he crept in here to surprise her, by suddenly holding out the flower from among the foliage? I have had a print of this for several years before I spotted the man. But he is painted right there, for sure.

    • foxpudding says:

      The comment from Lieu leads me to believe she saw him there, too. The copy I have in the book beside me shows the kneeling figure very plainly, although I am not sure if it is a man or a woman. I flat did not see the figure until after I’d written and published this piece, and then I thought, well, that’s okay. I like the idea that it is a secret communication.

  5. Jenifer says:

    Okay. So now you have to write the full screen play….

  6. This painting captures a tender early morning meeting between the lady and her gardener. The painting is filled with beauty and tenderness. I can almost smell those lovely roses. I have a reproduction of it hanging in my bedroom and I see it every morning when I wake up and am once again invited into this charming scene.

  7. Pingback: Jean-Édouard Vuillard II | The Automat

  8. judy says:

    does anyone know where I can get a print of this painting?

  9. I’m also looking for a print of Vuillard’s Mornning in the GardenatVaxcresson. If you find a resource, please let me know.

  10. judy says:


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