Swiss-born Félix Vallotton (1865–1925) was the leading innovator when it came to the artistic woodcut.
While other fin-de-siècle printmakers mostly used the popular colour lithography technique, Vallotton focused on the woodcut and the expressive power of black ink on white paper.
These works made such an impression on the Nabi artists in 1892 that they invited him to join them.
Disguised Social Critique
Vallotton’s prints mostly depict daily life in Paris.
He was especially fascinated by the metropolitan phenomenon of the crowd, but he also showed more intimate subjects in domestic interiors.
The decorative surface of his work frequently concealed a powerful element of social critique.
He held up a mirror to his contemporaries and confronted them — lightened by a dash of humour — with issues such as oppression, mass consumption and the hypocrisy of marriage.
The Perfect Woodcut
Vallotton made over 120 woodcuts between 1891 and 1901.
He felt that with his impressive series Intimités — ten prints illustrating the age-old power struggle between men and women — he had achieved the perfect woodcut in terms of subject matter, style, and technique.
It was now time for the new challenge of painting. Vallotton returned to the woodcut one last time in 1915 with the series C’est la Guerre.
Maxime Vallotton, Charles Goerg, Felix Vallotton. Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographie, Geneva 1972
Sasha M. Newman et al., Felix Vallotton, New York 1991
Marina Ducrey, Fleur Roos Rosa de Carvalho, Nienke Bakker et al., Félix Vallotton. Het vuur onder het ijs, Amsterdam 2014