Andr� Ostier, Pierre Bonnard, 1941, silver gelatin photograph (Detail)
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Pierre BONNARD | Place Clichy [La Place Clichy]
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France 1867 – 1947
Place Clichy
[La Place Clichy]
oil on canvas
138.0 (h) x 203.0 (w) cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, Besançon, Gift of George and Adèle Besson 1963. Deposited by the Musée national d'art moderne
Answer the following questions:
  1. How does Bonnard suggest the weather?
    Where is the sun? What colour is the road?
    What is the person on the right carrying?
  2. Draw a horizontal line in your mind’s eye across the exact middle of the painting. What appear below that line, but not above it? What appear above that line, but not below it?
  3. How has the artist suggested the depth of the scene?
    Are some things clearer or fuzzier than others?
    Are some things darker or fainter than others?
    Are some people painted larger or smaller than others?
  4. What are all the things that tell you about Paris in 1912?

In 1912 Bonnard's friends George and Adèle Besson commissioned this painting for their apartment. Place Clichy, on the western slope of Montmartre, is the centre of a number of radiating avenues, a busy place full of people shopping, talking and drinking coffee. The automobile and commercial businesses visible in the background demonstrate the prosperity of the times.

The view is from the terrace of the Brasserie Wepler. Its awning is visible along the top of the picture, with the words soupers (suppers) and brasseri[e] facing out to the street — and therefore seen by us in reverse. The horizontality of the awning is echoed in the frieze-like array of people across the bottom half of the canvas. A waiter stands at the extreme left, another at the right. Two women on the left walk by, while the two to the right, accompanied by a small child, appear to be about to seat themselves at a table. A man walks with a dog, and two girls cross the street arm in arm, one of them carrying a basket of laundry. Passengers look out of the passing car. Figures on the far right with a parasol shield themselves from the bright sunlight bathing the scene.

A sense of depth is conveyed by the diminishing size of the people from foreground into middle distance; by the nearer buildings overlapping more distant ones as in a stage set; and by the softening and blurring of the most distant details.

The Brasserie Wepler is still there today — look up www.wepler.com on the internet.

Article authored by the NGA Education department
Introduction | Gallery | Literature | Chronology | Glossary | Education Kit
The Pierre Bonnard works on this page are reproduced with the permission of
ADAGP, Paris and VISCOPY Ltd, Sydney 2003.