During the 1910s and thereafter Bonnard developed images of interiors that are very different to the private interiors of his Nabi years. Figures are now exposed to reality, presented as on a stage. Bonnard’s partner and model, Marthe, becomes an actress in an active and emancipated role, elegantly dressed and dominating the scene. Gas light is replaced by dazzling electric light. No children appear in these interiors.
In the 1920s Bonnard undertook fewer decorative projects, but took his decorative style beyond panels designed for specific interiors into the often large-scale landscapes that he had begun to paint in the village of Vernonnet, where he often worked in these years where, having acquired a little house, Ma Roulotte (My Caravan), in 1912.
Vernonnet is on the Seine near Vernon, a few kilometres west of Giverny, where Monet had lived and worked for almost 30 years. The two men became close friends. Unlike Monet’s garden, Bonnard’s was not carefully planned, but an overgrown lush jungle of wildflowers, bushes and trees.
Bonnard painted many views from Ma Roulotte, from his window and from the balcony. He depicted the colourful garden, the green fields, the treetops, the poplars, elms and willows that lined the riverbanks, the Seine with its boats. The impression of these all-over compositions is of a dense, panoramic view of an indefinite landscape.
In April 1924, a retrospective of Bonnard’s work at the Galerie Druet in Paris included 89 paintings dating from 1890 to 1922. The show attracted favourable criticism. The art critic Elie Faure characterised well the originality of Bonnard’s art:
Like the rarest artists, he gives the impression of having invented painting. This is not merely because everything in the world — everything, every day — is new to him and so he expresses it in a new way, but also because he stands at the dawn of a new intellectual order. He was the first to organise it, following a rhythm of which we had been unaware before his arrival: the fine old harmonies that make us what we are.
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The Pierre Bonnard works on this page are reproduced with the permission of|
ADAGP, Paris and VISCOPY Ltd, Sydney 2003.