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First Fruits, 1899

Édouard Vuillard
French, 1868-1940
Oil on canvas
96 x 170 in. (243.8 x 431.8 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation; Photography courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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At fourteen feet across, First Fruits is the largest canvas Vuillard ever painted. He likely sketched its composition from the window of a villa outside Paris where he passed the summer of 1899 with his sister, her husband, and their young daughter. The painting’s grand scale and border of flowering plants, however, indicate that this is no spontaneous, outdoor sketch but a kind of patterned, painted tapestry, originally conceived as a decoration for the private library of a Parisian banker. Though inspired by the pleasures of a family holiday in the countryside, the picture, as one contemporary critic remarked, was quite evidently “painted in a city and for a city apartment.”

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