Putting The 'High' in High Art: 'Theodore Duret' by Edouard Vuillard

City Paper

If you’re the type of person who likes to stay busy, you eventually reach a point where you feel insane for running around and juggling everything and being so constantly harried, but you also totally revel in it, because everything’s an experience, and it feels so good to fill up your time with so many experiences. Edouard Vuillard’s portrait of Théodore Duret exemplifies that model. Duret was a critic and collector whose early life was fueled by his political passion, which according to the NGA, “nearly sent him to the guillotine” in France. (He also apparently was the first to use the term “avant garde” for art.) Far from a society portrait (which I almost never care about, can’t relate to, and always feel like I see too much of when I go to museums), this painting is as much about the room, the environment, and the stacks of books and manuscripts as it is about the pictured person who produced or collected them. Duret looks so smug in this painting as he sits in his deskchair, surrounded by his life’s work, and I guess we could all go any day, no warning, so that’s why I just want to go for it, you know? 

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