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Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Preparatory photograph of the Bloch sitting room, for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
Private collection

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1926-27
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Claude Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1926
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Claude Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1927
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Francine Damon (Douce Nounou), preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1926-27
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Gilberte Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1926-27
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Gilberte Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, c. 1926-27
Pastel on paper
Private collection, Paris

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Preparatory study for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, 1927
Glue-based distemper on paper
74 x 63 3/4 in. (188 x 162 cm)
Private collection, New York

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Preparatory study for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, 1927
Glue-based distemper on canvas
76 3/4 x 69 in. (195 x 175 cm)
Private collection, South Africa

The Bloch family sat for Vuillard on Saturday mornings every fortnight. During sitting Vuillard seldom talked and the children had to stay quiet. Vuillard began with sketches, pastels, and a photograph. Some of the sketches focus on the composition and others on the pose or expressions of the sitters. The photograph only shows the setting, it does not include any of the sitters. He then executed two full-size sketches in glue-based distemper (his preferred paint medium) which has a very matte surface, one on paper, the other on canvas. The two large studies are executed in a rapid, gestural manner, with short strokes of color and softened edges that owe something to Renoir. After this, he painted a complete, finished portrait in glue-based distemper on canvas which is stricter in expression. With the arrival of a fourth child, Vuillard created a second version.

Vuillard kept a journal for many years, recording his thoughts and plans for works in an abbreviated, telegraphic style. For the Bloch paintings he made numerous notes about his process, from the point when he received the commission through the execution of the second version:

January 20, 1927: "Jean Bloch: his 'idea' for the portrait of his wife. [Came] home at midnight." And the next day: "Ideas falling into place this morning; how might B[onnard] have imagined the color for my portrait? Effort of will to [recapture] the initial sensation and the confrontation with the immediate and at the same time all the reality of the first experience. Dangerous work, [with the possibility of] loss of harmony."

April 30, 1928: "Try to use photographs, difficult."

April 23, 1929, working on the second version: "Effect of curtains drawn against the sun; relationships finer, closer than those I painted before, more transparent."

February 7, 1930: "Several of the colors are quite evocative; dizzying effect of the settee; forego rendering the flowers [on the upholstery]."

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, first version, 1927–29
Glue-based distemper on canvas
75 3/4 x 70 5/8 in. (192.5 x 179.5 cm)
Neffe-Degandt Ltd., London

Edouard Vuillardenlarge image
Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, second version, 1930, reworked 1933 and 1934
Glue-based distemper on canvas
72 7/8 x 70 7/8 in. (185 x 180 cm)
Private collection, Paris


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Preparatory photograph of the Bloch sitting room, for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Claude Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Claude Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Francine Damon (Douce Nounou), preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Gilberte Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Gilberte Bloch, preparatory drawing for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Preparatory study for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Preparatory study for Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children
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Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, first version
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Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, second version