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The Dressmakers Under the Lamp, c. 1891-1892

Édouard Vuillard

French, 1868-1940
Oil on cardboard
9-5/8 x 10-1/2 in. (24.4 x 26.7 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Vuillard’s father died when he was sixteen, leaving his mother to support the family as a dressmaker. She worked at home in a series of small Parisian apartments she shared with her son. This dimly lit scene, intimate to the point of claustrophobia, suggests the long hours she kept and the cramped conditions of her labor. Coupling family intimacy with a sense of foreboding, the picture is typical of the artist’s early work. Close contact with his mother’s trade—fabric, color, pattern, and silhouette—left an enduring mark on Vuillard’s style, still evident in much later works of far grander scale and ambition.

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