Félix Vallotton - Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I New York Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | Phillips
  • Félix Vallotton was a preeminent painter of intimate interior scenes in fin-de-siècle Paris, of which Papotage, 1902, is a quintessential example. Papotage presents a familial scene of the artist’s wife, Gabrielle Rodrigues-Hénriques, in conversation with relatives, placed at an emotional and physical remove that aligns with Modernist anxieties of the isolation and anonymity of city life. The painting reflects a significant change in Vallotton’s artistic and social milieu, initiated by his 1899 marriage to Gabrielle, the daughter of the founder of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, an important venue for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Vallotton’s newfound financial stability, alongside consistent access to exhibition space, allowed the artist to focus on the interior paintings, like Papotage, that would become his enduring legacy as an artist.i The present work was inherited at the artist’s death by his wife and his brother; his son-in-law, Jacques Rodrigues-Henriques, applied the timbre marking the work’s authenticity.


    Félix and Gabrielle Vallotton at Lausanne, May 1899.

    Though friendly with the Nabis, Vallotton built his own reputation as one of Paris’ leading printmakers of the 1890s. Credited with reviving the medium of woodcut printing, Vallotton was famous for the pictorial simplicity, acerbic wit, and acute social commentary of his prints, and he was one of the favored illustrators of La Revue blanche, a radical arts and literary magazine that published work by the top artists and writers of fin-de-siècle Paris.ii In Papotage, Vallotton translates the clean pictorial surfaces and wry sensibility of his woodcut prints into his practice as a painter.


    Papotage, which translates to “chatter” or “gossip,” depicts Gabrielle at center in a bright purple dress, while her sister, Marguerite Aghion, at right, and a woman named Mademoiselle Barney lean towards one another in conversation. Vallotton simplifies Aghion and Barney’s facial features to the shadows of cheeks and eyelashes, but Gabrielle’s expression is bright and clear. With just a few lines of brown paint, Vallotton renders a raised eyebrow, quick, dark eyes, and a barely-concealed smirk on his wife’s face. This virtuosic painted shorthand reveals Vallotton’s skill, honed as a printmaker, for expressing a depth of wit in limited pictorial means. His lifelong admiration for Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres shines as well, through the smooth rendering of surfaces, especially the women’s skin, and the rounded contours of their bodies and armchairs.iii


    While Papotage reflects a wider change in Vallotton’s subject matter around 1900 from the streets of Paris to bourgeois interiors, his astute grasp of human relationships remains paramount. So, too, does the artist’s sense of self as an outsider, or observer—the Swiss artist was called le Nabi étranger by his French peers, and he was a stranger to his wife’s social class, still adapting to his new place in her family, including as stepfather to her children.iv


    Félix Vallotton, Le Poker, 1902. Musée d’Orsay. Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY 

    In Papotage, there is a clear separation between the gossiping women and the viewer—the women sit deep in the picture plane, their distance from the viewer further defined by the length of the tan bench receding sharply towards them. The opacity of the women’s expressions creates a sense of emotional distance, as well; the viewer is close enough to see these women, to paint them, but perhaps too far to hear what they are saying. Aghion’s leaning posture further suggests a whispering confidentiality and exclusion of eavesdroppers.


    Vallotton deployed this depth of plane as a means of emotional distancing across his oeuvre, as in Le Poker, 1902, Musée d’Orsay, another work in which Gabrielle and her family are placed deep in the scene, behind a long, receding table.v Vallotton expresses his ambiguous position as both outsider and member of the family through the pictorial space and surface of Papotage, in a wry marriage of emotional resonance and artistic form.



    i Dita Amory et al., Félix Vallotton, exh. cat., the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2019, pp. 9-10, 13-14.

    ii Ibid., p. 26.

    iii Ibid., p. 14.

    iv Ibid., pp. 32-33; 9-10.

    v “Le Poker,” Musée d’Orsay, accessed Sep. 2023, online.

    • Description

      Please see main sale page for guarantee notice https://www.phillips.com/auctions/auction/NY011123

    • Provenance

      Succession F. Valloton, Paris
      Gabrielle Rodrigues-Henriques, Paris (by descent from the above)
      Jacques Rodrigues-Henriques, Paris (by descent from the above in 1934)
      Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Altschul, New York (acquired from the above on May 16, 1956)
      Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris (acquired by 2003)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Peintres de Portraits au profit de la “Société d’entr’aide des membres de la Légion d’Honneur,” May 17–June 28, 1952, no. 61, n.p. (titled La Conversation; dated 1899)
      Paris, Maison de la pensée française, Félix Vallotton 1865-1925, April–June 1955, no. 7, n.p. (titled Papotage de trois dames; dated 1899)
      The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Nabis and their Circle, November 15–December 30, 1962, p. 147 (dated 1899)
      New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Neo-Impressionists and Nabis in the Collection of Arthur G. Altschul, January 20–March 14, 1965, no. 45, pp. 102, 107 (illustrated, n.p.; dated 1899)
      New York, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc., Félix Vallotton (1865-1925): A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, Woodcuts and Engravings, April 7–25, 1970, no. 32, n.p. (illustrated; titled Gossiping; dated 1899)
      Los Angeles, The Grunwald Graphic Arts Foundation, University of California, The Graphic Art of Félix Vallotton, October 24–November 19, 1972, no. 4, n.p. (dated 1899)
      Art Gallery of Ontario, Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition, October 24–November 30, 1975, no. 66, p. 150 (illustrated; dated 1899)
      New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum; Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Félix Vallotton: A Retrospective, October 24, 1991–January 31, 1993, pl. 280, pp. 228-229, 298-299 (illustrated, p. 228)
      Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung; Essen, Folkwang Museum, Félix Vallotton, August 25, 1995–February 18, 1996, no. 41, n.p. (illustrated)
      Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Around Gauguin: Post-Impressionist works from the Triton Foundation, April 8–June 12, 2005
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, De Omslag: Illusie en Werkelijkheid in de Kunst van de Jaren ’50 en ’60 uit de Triton Foundation, November 1, 2005–March 26, 2006, pp. 2-3, 13
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Klaroenstoot voor de moderne kunst. De Nabis in de collectie van de Triton Foundation, April 29–November 30, 2008, pp. 29-30 (illustrated, p. 29)
      Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Riverwalk Gallery; Hiroshima Museum of Art, Toulouse-Lautrec et son Cercle, November 10, 2009–March 22, 2010, no. 96, pp. 138, 189 (illustrated, p. 138)

    • Literature

      Félix Vallotton 1865-1925, exh. cat., Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1938, no. 477, p. 51 (titled Intérieur 3 femmes peinture)
      Rudolf Koella, Félix Vallotton, Zürich, 1979, p. 43 (illustrated)
      Richard Shone, The Post-Impressionists, London, 1979, fig. 146, pp. 126-127 (illustrated, p. 126)
      Günter Busch, Bernard Dorival, Patrick Grainville, Doris Jakubec, Vallotton, Lausanne, 1985, pl. 74, pp. 78, 233 (illustrated, p. 78)
      Antoine Salomon and Guy Cogeval, Vuillard: The Inexhaustible Glance, Critical Catalogue of Paintings and Pastels, Milan, 2003, vol. I, p. 228 (illustrated; titled Malicious Gossip)
      Marina Ducrey, Félix Vallotton 1865-1925, L’Oeuvre peint, vol. II. Catalogue raisonné, Milan, 2005, no. 402, p. 249 (illustrated)
      Nathalia Brodskaïa, Félix Vallotton. The Nabi from Switzerland, New York, 2013, pp. 76, 198 (illustrated, p. 76)
      Avant-gardes 1870 to the present: The Collection of the Triton Collection Foundation, exh. cat., Kunsthal Rotterdam, Brussels, 2012, pp. 118-119, 566 (illustrated, pp. 118-119)
      Jérôme Prieur, “La peinture cinéma de Vallotton,” Libération, October 10, 2013, online




stamped "F. Vallotton." and bears the inscription “99” lower right
oil on board
14 7/8 x 20 1/4 in. (38 x 51.5 cm)
Painted in 1902.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $330,200

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1206

Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I

New York Auction 14 November 2023