I was so happy to hear that a new exhibit of one of my top favorite painters, Pierre Bonnard, was opening up at the Legion of Honor! He’s known as one of the Nabis, a Post-Impressionist movement where the the flattened perspective of Japanese art, the stylization of Art Nouveau, the use of pattern as a decorative element and the exploration of non-local color were early hallmarks.
I love this big, beautiful, blown-up photograph of Pierre Bonnard in a room full of very intimate, tiny photos of the artist and his wife. So interesting to see these mysterious little moments emerge from the darkness in such contrast to his small and very large canvases that are flooded with light and color!
You can clearly see the decorative stylized elements in his early pieces, Woman in Dress with White Dots, Seated Woman with Cat, Woman in Cape, Woman in Checkered Dress 1890-91. Close up you can see the simple laying in of paint stokes over the tan substrate.
Woman in Checkered Dress (detail) 1890-91 distemper on paper mounted on canvas
Seated Woman with Cat (face detail) 1890-91 distemper on paper mounted on canvas
Seated Woman with Cat (detail) 1890-91 distemper on paper mounted on canvas
Here in this detail from this 1895 oil painting, In the Garden loose, gestural strokes are applied to a green ground.
In this detail from the 1892 painting, The Checkered Blouse, bits of the canvas can be seen under thickly applied daubs of paint.
This wall sized oil on canvas, On the Boat from 1907 features both the light filled, almost patterned landscape and the face in deep shadow in the foreground.
Charming duck detail.
This detail of the birds in the trees shows how loosely the paint is applied.
One of the most arresting pieces in the exhibit, Nude in an Interior from 1912-14 uses elements of the interior (walls and tables) to radically crop the figure in a daring and partially voyeuristic manner. Color pulsates and shimmers with its mix of varied hues.
Pink Nude, Head in Shadow from 1919 just glows in juxtaposition to the deep shadow across the face. I’m in love with that lavender pink stipe against al those shades of pale yellow and mint.
In Nude in the Bathtub from 1925 we are introduced to one of Bonnard’s most celebrated motifs, the bather and bathtub, seen here in an almost bird’s eye view. I could look at all those gorgeous mottled pastels forever…
In The Bath from 1925 we again see the play of the color of flesh as seen through water.
In the Work Table dated 1926-1937 we see the up tilted perspective on a domestic scene with pattern color and pets – classic!
The Boxer (Portrait of the Artist) −1931 is a bit of a departure, the lack of a setting allows the viewer a deeper focus of the figure’s expression and gesture, the face again thrown into shadow and surfaces loose and luminous.
Yellow Harmony from 1934 achieves an almost abstract quality, it’s supersaturated color dematerializes the figure which is absorbed into the composition as just another structural element.
Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia is a major show of more than 70 works that span his prolific career, this post only represents some of my favorites, I hope you’ll take in the exhibit before it closes May 15 and spend some time with your own picks!