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Édouard Vuillard, together with Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier, was one of the founders of the Nabis, a group, which emerged from the teachings of Gauguin’s Breton works and the influence of nineteenth-century Japanese prints. Stemming more from the imagination than from direct observation of the subject, the new pictorial language combines a Synthetist technique — reducing forms and colours to their minimum expression — with urban and intimate themes.
Like the other members of the Nabis, Vuillard was in very close contact with the world of the theatre and collaborated with the producer Aurélien Lugné-Poe on the sets for the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre between 1893 and 1903. The Singer, a pastel dating from 1891–92, provides a glimpse of the world of his friend the actor Coquelin-Cadet, his first patron and a member of the group involved with Thadée Natanson’s magazine La Revue Blanche. The image, shown very close up, depicts the moment when an actress bows to the public after her performance. Vuillard’s extremely virtuous pastel technique makes this small work a significant example of his delicate harmony and skill at capturing mysterious light effects.