The Bonnard family spent holidays in their house, Le Clos [The Enclosure], at Le Grand-Lemps in the Dauphiné, a rural region between Lyons and Grenoble. Bonnard’s stays there resulted in genre paintings, landscapes and photographs — recording his family at leisure.
Where Paris represented sophistication, ambition and encounters with all kinds of people, Bonnard’s experience at Le Grand-Lemps was just the opposite, and in that environment he developed his ideas for large-scale densely packed landscapes and the decorative schemes for which he received commissions from about 1900.
Together with his Nabi friends, Bonnard’s creative ventures extended beyond easel painting to designing folding screens, furniture, ceramics and posters. He became sought-after as a painter of decorative panels depicting landscapes, parks, squares, boulevards or more fanciful subjects. These decorative works expanded the scope of traditional easel painting, often forming a large composite iconographic scheme conceived to fit a particular interior.
In 1910 the art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, enthusiastically summarised Bonnard’s decorative works:
M. Bonnard is fantasy, instinct, ingenuous spontaneity, French charm, both tender and mischievous. He delights the eye with attenuated colour harmonies suggesting the tones of faded tapestries, and iridescent pearly skin in semidarkness. His panels depict a thousand stories as entertaining as the thousand and one nights, portrayed with energy.
Bonnard’s approach to the female body was unorthodox and openly sensual. In sharp contrast to his depictions of bourgeois country life, leisure and children’s games in the garden of Le Clos, Bonnard painted almost risqué images of nudes. In his Paris studio, and in the house he had rented outside the city at Morval, Bonnard painted his lover and muse Marthe (Maria Boursin, whom he met in 1893, but did not marry until 1925). He took photographs of Marthe to serve as studies for paintings where she is depicted in various poses, but always (even in paintings as late as 1940) with a slender body, long legs, narrow waist and firm breasts — and very often in the bathroom.
|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.