2008.487.110 Edouard Vuillard
Une Répétition a l’Oeuvre, ca 1900, lithograph
Author: Annaliese Hohner
The symbolist movement grew across much of France in various forms, including theatre. Symbolists wanted to redefine art and give it meaning an emotion, opposing the ideals they believed Impressionists had of simply showing what was there. Edouard Vuillard’s lithograph Une Répétition a l’Oeuvre was one such work that was produced during the symbolist movement and showed the interior of the very famous symbolist Théâtre de L'Oeuvre. The composition of this theatre was used to promote the symbolist movement involved at the theatre as well as the movement itself.
The lithograph shows many men standing at the center of a stage, all immersed in seemingly normal actions as if in a rehearsal. The definition of Une Répétition a l’Oeuvre means “a rehearsal at l’Oeuvre,” further explaining why their movements lack the dramatic movements of an actual performance. The lines around the stage all direct towards the figures on the stage, and gradually the stage gets darker and more intense the closer it gets to the figures. Eyes are naturally drawn to this bold part of the piece, which incorporates the aims of the symbolist movement. The symbolists believed that time and small details should amount to create the emotion and meaning behind a piece, and with the built-up attention leading to the figures Vuillard was able to achieve this goal.
Vuillard’s special position of being the first manager of the Théâtre de L'Oeuvre gave him the special back stage access to a rehearsal like this, and often times he would transcribe what he saw onto lithographs or paintings. The goal of Théâtre de L'Oeuvre was to produce plays without censorship to serve as a step towards seeking political change, and Vuillard’s lithographs often served as promotion for the theatre. He would often turn these lithographs of various rehearsals and performances into programs or posters to display to the public to intrigue them of what possible plays would take place next. The performances never lasted long, and once they were over all of the decorations and settings of the production were destroyed. The paintings and lithographs like Une Répétition a l’Oeuvre served as a way of preserving the performances and sets once they concluded, allowing for the promotion of the symbolist theatre to last even after the productions were all over.
Edouard Vuillard’s mixture of symbolist techniques and his ability to incorporate it into his promotions for the theatre helped to keep the idea of symbolism alive. His ability to draw the attention of the audience inward and center it on those preparing for a production drew curiosity about what the final production would involve. With Une Répétition a l’Oeuvre, the composition contains the elements from symbolism that helped to further the promotion of the theatre that he had the privilege of managing.