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Pierre Bonnard, The White Interior, 1932, Musée de Grenoble

 
       
 

Delirious, Riotous Color 

   
 

Pierre Bonnard's Late Interiors

   

 

  

 

There is always color, it has yet to become light
- Pierre Bonnard

Matisse and Gauguin were both masters of color, but it is Bonnard who took it to delirious heights with his own distinctive palette, and as the best writers and painters have sometimes done, worked and re-worked the same narrow territory in an attempt to reach perfection: domestic scenes, his wife Marthe, pets, interiors, still lifes. 

Pierre Bonnard, born in 1867, was a member the Nabis (nabi is prophet in Hebrew) a group of painters, who were influenced by Gauguin's use of wild color.  They claimed that color in painting should be independent of objective reality, that a painting was an arrangement of colors and shapes on a plane surface.  It was, in fact, a group that believed in the extraordinary power of color. 

This exhibition focuses on the iridescent late interiors and still lifes of Bonnard from the years when he lived in the village of Le Cannet, on the Mediterranean.  He worked from his pink stucco house, and from his surroundings - the rooms of his house, the objects within - created paintings that are really about alchemy, the transformation of the quotidian into luminous magic. 

The early influence of Japanese prints on Bonnard's painting, a defining influence on his oeuvre, remains evident in these later paintings.  In Japanese prints, color is often 'flat' and there are multiple perspectives and ambiguous depth.  Bonnard used color not in some mysterious, magical way - the cacophony of color is always calculated.  Warm colors and cool colors are used to flatten, to create a Japanese-like sense of perspective, the flat floating world that is removed from Renaissance and Western ideas of depth and perspective. A certain blue-violet, often accompanied by orange and green became iconic.  Blotches and scumbling, broken-color technique all define his prophetic and sensual use of color.  Atmosphere and mood are important, art here is pure aesthetic reaction, sensory and transformative. 

In The White Interior (above) it is only after some time that the viewer notices that there is a woman in the painting, and that she is leaning down towards a cat.  Intimism was after all first used to describe the work of Bonnard, and his contemporary Vuillard, and intimism in essence was all about the attempt to recreate the quiet meditative isolation of the interior, a moment in time.  Natural color is distorted, mood and light are everything.     

 

Read:  Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors, The Metropolitan Museum of New York, through April 19.

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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