I met a guy in the Musée d’Orsay last year. He stopped me in my tracks and I instantly fell for him. He looked wise and talented and, OK, he dressed like a hipster but his moustache was impeccable and his stare was piercing. We would meet every now and again for a brief tête-à-tête.
I jumped at the opportunity of a real date where I could get to know him properly, delve past his cool exterior to the burning depths of his soul.
So last week I finally made it to the Grand Palais exhibition; Félix Vallotton, Le feu sous la glace (Fire Beneath the Ice).
Right from the start he showed himself to be an independent man, not attaching himself to any social or artistic movement. He did join the Nabis at one point, and I found many references to their style (especially the japanese influence), but even they called him “The Stranger”.
I started to fall for him even more, revelling in his bold use of colour and contouring lines, influenced by drawing and moving away from the blurred aesthetic of impressionism. His work seemed so ahead of its time whilst treating pretty conventional and traditional themes.
The influence photography had on him was apparent, and I was picturing him wandering around snapping away with his Kodak around his neck. His paintings have the freeze-frame feel of the capturing of an intimate moment and I am sure he would have loved instagram, unfortunately he missed out on that one. #yolo.
This man kept revealing his hidden talent, and I discovered he was also a brilliant, humorous, graphic designer. He created over 100 woodcuts, developing his personal style and exploring his dark side.
Throughout our afternoon together he kept insisting on his love for women and the female form. I tried not to blush too much, tried not to compare myself to his many nudes. There was always a distance, however, between the painter and the painted; his women are always hidden or constrained in some way.
Alarm bells started to ring when it was pointed out to me that he loved and hated women in equal measure, but I didn’t quite understand and so rejected this idea. We focused for a short while on his foray into still life painting and I found it incredibly funny, ironic even, how these inanimate objects were portrayed next to the female form.
He proved to be enamoured with their bodies in the same way he is enamoured with a great selection of peppers. So he objectified women every now and again, well that’s nothing new is it? “It’s all right” I think, “he just needs to get hold of The Second Sex”.
We got to that point in our new relationship where you really cannot hold back anymore. After a whole afternoon of ‘getting to know each other’ we found ourselves plunged into a deep conversation about equality. We started talking about the F word.
Suddenly my beau’s attitude changed. He darkened and became vehement, seething with bile and hatred for the plight of women’s rights. Behind the anger I knew there lay fear: fear that women no longer needed rescuing from the dragon, fear that women were out to destroy men and masculinity, but nothing I could say would change his mind.
Abruptly our date ended. I was left confused and emotional. I was immensely happy to have spent a couple of hours with this extremely talented man, a man who created so much beauty. But I was left wondering how he felt about me, questioning his motives. I’m finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that I am still attracted to this misogynist. Can I separate the man from his work? Could I possibly bring myself to see him again? Do you think he will call?
Vallotton, Le feu sous la glace at the Grand Palais.
2 October 2013- 20 January 2014. Only a few days left!
10am – 8pm
Full price: €13, Reduced price: €9