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250 × 190 × 270 mm
424 pages
260 illustrations, 188 in colour
14 Oct 2019

Venus Betrayed The Private World of Édouard Vuillard Julia Frey

Édouard Vuillard was so secretive that he berated himself for betraying his emotions in conversation. He was a reticent, impassioned man, a timid stalker and a social climbing anarchist, caught in conflicting desires. From the 1880s until the advent of World War II, using styles from academic to Pointillist to Nabi to Fauve, he abundantly revealed his love and hatred in his paintings: models pose beside a plaster torso cast from the Venus of Milo, women appear without faces, anxiety radiates from many masterpieces, while other works were left unfinished for months or years.

Drawing on insights and images from Vuillard’s still unpublished diaries, Julia Frey takes the reader into Vuillard’s private world of cabarets, experimental theatres, holiday resorts and intimate boudoirs, showing how his art reflects his fraught personal relations and his artistic struggles. Frey chooses many of his finest works, from the famous intimate interior scenes to book illustrations and poster designs, and examines his complex relationships with friends such as Pierre Bonnard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Stéphane Mallarmé, Felix Vallotton, and the women he loved: his mother and sister, penniless models and rich men’s wives.

‘How does one wring dramatic interest and sustained insight from the cloistered routines of an artist who lived with his mother; never married; seldom traveled; and, with the exception of his youthful Nabism, recoiled from the dominant movements of the day? Julia Frey, an emeritus professor of French and art history at the University of Colorado, has done so in her marvelous, beautifully illustrated Venus Betrayed: The Private World of Édouard Vuillard . . . As the saying goes in fiction, artist monographs are best when the author shows rather than tells. Venus Betrayed balances and melds the biographical with the visual without forcing connections or overplaying symbols.’ — Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

‘Julia Frey has mined the rich resource of Edouard Vuillard's unpublished journals to construct a new interpretation of the artist, and of the multiple contradictions that surround him and his work . . . Frey's original study of Vuillard reveals a far more complex and multifaceted artist than has hitherto been thought.’ — The Art Newspaper

Venus Betrayed is lively and well crafted, a distillation of exhaustive looking and careful thought. Building imaginatively upon the foundations of recent scholarship – the 2003 catalogue raisonné and a trio of French studies analysing Vuillard’s journals – it deserves to be widely read. A thought-provoking addition to the study of an extremely complex individual, Frey’s book affirms the value of exploring the relationship between an artist’s private life and creativity’ — The Burlington Magazine

Venus Betrayed: The Private World of Édouard Vuillard, is not strictly a biography but a thematic study of the artist’s work from a biographical standpoint. What we get is a kind of biography-in-disguise, in which the events of Vuillard’s life are not presented chronologically but in relation to friends and family, and to recurrent motifs and obsessions . . . The thematic approach means that chapters overlap, with certain events or anecdotes recurring like motifs in a piece of music. Each recurrence adds emphasis and reveals more of Vuillard’s complexities. It adds up to an unusually searching examination of an artist based on the evidence of his works and his private journals. It’s a portrait of a double life.’ — John McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald

‘a lavish and expansive book . . . Frey’s book is ambitious, drawing our attention to just how modern Vuillard was with his feckless navigations of an increasingly unconventional world, his artistic response to new ideas regarding consciousness and the self, and his expressive use of the new medium of photography . . . one of the most significant studies to come out in almost twenty years.’ — The New Criterion

‘I don’t think there could be a better newish art book to obsess over during the pandemic home confinement period than Julia Frey’s Venus Betrayed: The Private World of Édouard Vuillard, a thematic biography of French painter Édouard Vuillard, chocked full of large color reproductions . . . With 220 lush, sensually provocative (and perverse) color plates, there is plenty to luxuriate starved and strained sensibilities within this rather idiosyncratic book while still learning the Freudian details about Vuillard’s bifurcated early life. Through Vuillard’s journals, sketches and copious photographs (which he also used in his cropped-arranged figurative compositions) Frey reveals a creature half passive home body (quietly living with mother and sister) half all-night walking whoring carouser.’ — Joseph Nechvatal, White Hot Magazine

‘Julia Frey has not just written a simple biography of the artist but rather a full analysis of his life and work . . . it is very well illustrated . . . essential if you want to learn more about the artist but it is also a great read for anyone interested in the arts.’ — The Connexion

‘Frey’s biographical account offers a new and intimate look at Vuillard – an artist whose work is central to the history of modern art. Centered on the private life that so characteristically defined Vuillard’s painting, the book is engaging and personal, appealing to readers who are both new to and familiar with its subject.’ — Britany Salsbury, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, The Cleveland Museum of Art

‘The title of Julia Frey’s Venus Betrayed hints at the provocative reassessment of an artist best remembered for his small scenes of intimate domestic life, and as a bachelor who lived with his mother all her life. “Saint” Vuillard is now seen as much a sinner and indeed haunted individual. Densely illustrated with Vuillard’s personal jottings and sketches to full blown paintings, this is a breakthrough in artist biography, offering bold and fascinating interpretations of recurring motifs, gestures and other symbols for Vuillard’s ongoing passions and emotional conflicts, to bolster exciting new readings of the artist and the women in his life.’ — Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture, the Art Institute of Chicago

‘Frey’s provocative portrait of Edouard Vuillard captures the paradoxical nature of the man and his oeuvre. Drawing on biographical, artistic, and photographic records, Frey refracts Vuillard’s work through multiple perspectives in seventeen intriguing essays that reveal the richness and complexity of his life and art. This profusely illustrated volume offers original perspectives that challenge the reader to see Vuillard’s work afresh.’ — Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Portland Art Museum

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Julia Frey is emeritus professor of French and Art History at University of Colorado, and a successful artist, printmaker and writer. Her books include the critically acclaimed biography Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life (1994), which won a PEN literary award, and Balcony View: A 9/11 Diary (2011). She now lives in France. Find out more at: www.juliafreyauthor.com.

Prologue: The Journals of Édouard Vuillard

1 Dinnertime
2 Missing Men
3 The Sin of Désirée
4 The Corset Factory
5 Vuillard: Saint and Sinner
6 The Stalker
7 Sleepers
8 The Kiss
9 Pregnant Silences
10 Kerr
11 I Dream of Misia
12 Ménage à trois
13 Settling Scores
14 Paralysis
15 Venus Betrayed
16 Maman
17 Repainting

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Photo Acknowledgements