Félix Vallotton at the Royal Academy

Felix Vallotton

The Swiss painter Félix Vallotton was the subject of a recent small-scale exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Associated with the Nabis, I’ve always kind of liked his patterny paintings (though Bonnard was head and shoulders above him). But the problem with Vallotton, as with a bunch of painters of his generation or thereabouts, was that he could draw graphically, but not in his paintings. In his paintings his drawing was pretty awful. And similarly in his sketches. But set him to work on a more designy task, and he was pretty darn good. And the RA show demonstrated this well, with a set of prints (I think they were lino prints, it’s a few weeks since now and the show has faded in the memory) that were really enjoyable. Especially prints of crowds, where he’s allowed his use of black shapes to coalesce into natural-looking blobs of massed humanity. Here are a few more examples:

Felix vallotton

Felix Vallotton

Félix Vallotton

By contrast, here are a few of his paintings. First from a tryptich of shoppers in a department store - kudos for Modern-ism here:

...and then there’s the following, which is typical of his patterning/flat areas of colour style, which often (but not always) works in theory better than in practise.

I mean, it’s lovely, but I think I know which area of his work I’d prefer to spend my Untold Billions on.

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