Elegant drawing by Edouard Vuillard, representing the elegant profile of Marthe Mellot. This ink is a study for Marthe’s silhouette in one of the panels painted for Jean Schopfer in 1898: Femme lisant sur un banc (private collection). This large panel illustrates an afternoon at the Natanson’s Summer house, Le Relais, at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne where Vuillard spent many holidays with his friends. In the painted scene, Marthe Mellot is reading a journal, while Bonnard talks to her on the left side of the composition. Her splendid hair doe, white shirt with black patterns and elegant posture is immediately recognizable. Vuillard transformed this detail into a small ink drawing, almost mimicking a Japanese wood-cut, in its format and simplicity. She seems alone in the drawing, isolated in her reading, and her thin neck and refine profile is underlined by an intense black line.
Marthe Mellot, an actress, married to Alfted Natanson, was a member of the artist’s close circle. She was portrayed by Toulouse Lautrec for the poster of the Théâtre Antoine, for La Gitane de Richepin, as well as by Felix Vallodon. Always noticeable by her black hair and graceful allure. The Natanson, as well as Jean Schopfer (close friend of Vuillard since the Lycée) plaid an important role to promote Vuillard’s decorative art production. Most of his decorative panels were designed for his friends’ apartment and illustrate peaceful moments of their lives. All these characters – Marthe, Misia, Bonnard, Natanson brothers – were part of Vuillard’s life and were often portrayed in his works. An osmose, a game of mirrors, between the reality, the decorative panels on their walls, and Vuillard art. The intimacy of the artist with his friends is delicately illustrate in this small drawing, that still belong to the Natanson family.