Andr´┐Ż Ostier, Pierre Bonnard, 1941, silver gelatin photograph (Detail)
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Pierre BONNARD | Siesta [La Sieste]
Click to enlarge
France 1867 – 1947
[La Sieste]
oil on canvas
109.0 (h) x 132.0 (w) cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest 1949

The model was Marthe Boursin, whom Bonnard had met in 1893; they lived as husband and wife but did not marry until 1925. Marthe is shown in a pose made famous by a celebrated classical sculpture, Hermaphrodite, which Bonnard may have seen in the Louvre during his studies there at l’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

We are in the room and looking down at the woman. With her head and shoulders in shadow, Marthe seems relaxed and perhaps asleep — she also appears to be slipping off the bed. The strong diagonal of the table on the right continues the line of Marthe’s upper left leg. The table appears tipped up, covered with a clutter of unstable objects — creating an ambiguous spatial illusion. Note how the stripes on the wallpaper on the right do not recede into the corner of the room, thereby flattening the space.

While the small white dog having a siesta on the floor beside the bed is facing away from the woman, the shape of its body echoes the shape of her back, and its front legs are stretched out in much the same way as the woman’s arms. Bonnard often introduced images of animals unexpectedly into his paintings.

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.