Vuillard was a painter fascinated by technical innovations and how the art of painting might be further elevated by applying such innovations. Described as a silent and modest man, he was nonetheless passionate about promoting his singular vision.
Though initially discouraged with the official training offered at most academies, Vuillard persevered and finally found at the Julian Academy a style of instruction that suited him.
An 1890 exhibit of Japanese art had a profound influence on many painters, including Vuillard. Captivated by the flattened space, daring compositions, and bold forms of this exotic art, a small group of artists began experimenting in kind. Maurice Dennis, Pierre Bonnard, and Vuillard met weekly to analyze the innovations of Eastern artists and the philosophies of Gaugin, and ultimately founded the Nabi Group (or the Prophets). Through their paintings, they were “witnesses of the familiar,” expressing day-to-day realities of life at the turn of the century with design-oriented portrayals and a palette all their own. According to Art Critic Jean Clay, “What counts in the paintings of the Nabi is the harmony of tone; representation is not eliminated from the canvas but is absorbed there, like a blotter, and becomes one component among others in the painting.”
In 1900, Vuillard met and fell in love with Lucie Hessel, the sister of his dear friend Roussell and the wife of an art dealer. Eventually he and Lucie united and stayed true to each other until her death in 1928. She was the love of his life and often modeled for him.