Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bonnard, Pierre

Girl Playing with a Dog
oil on canvas
75 x 80 cm (29.53 x 31.5 in.)
Private Collection

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) was a French painter. He is known for the intense use of color. His often complex compositions, typically of sunlit interiors of rooms and gardens populated with friends and family members, are both narrative and autobiographical. His wife Marthe was an ever-present subject over the course of several decades. She is seen seated at the kitchen table, with the remnants of a meal; or nude, as in a series of paintings where she reclines in the bathtub.
Bonnard did not paint from life but rather drew his subject, sometimes photographing it as well, and made notes on the colors. He then painted the canvas in his studio from his notes.

Picasso was very critical of Bonnard : “That’s not painting,” Picasso said. “Painting can’t be done that way. Painting isn’t a question of sensibility; it’s a matter of seizing the power, taking over from nature, not expecting her to supply you with information and good advice.” Matisse was supportive, however, remarking : “Yes! I certify that Pierre Bonnard is a great painter, for today and for the future.”

Bonnard was not a plein air painter like Monet or Cézanne, any more than Picasso was. He made copious drawings and notes that served as designs for more than one painting. Working on unstretched canvas, he developed a complex process of manipulating paint, rather in the way that contemporary painters do in seeking out color and textural possibilities. The format and content of the painting could then be altered by cropping the canvas.