BONNARD Pierre
1867 Born October 13 at Fontenay-aux-Roses near Paris. His father, head of an office in the War Ministry, hailed from the Dauphiné province; his mother, Elise Mertzdorff, was an Alsatian.
1877-85 Had a classical education, at which he did well, at the Vannes Lycée and Louis-le-Grand.
1885-88 Under pressure from his father, studies law.  
1888 Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Fails to obtain Prix de Rome. The work he submitted was "not serious enough." Studied at the Académie Jullian, where he met Denis, Vuillard, Ranson, Sérusier. In October Sérusier comes back from Pont-Aven with Gauguin's "talisman." Influence of Japanese prints and Chinese art.  
1889 A decisive year. Gauguin's art, on view at the Volpini exhibition, is a revelation. A group is formed: the "Nabis." Bonnard makes a poster, France-Champagne, preceding Lautrec's posters ( 1891), which he sells for a hundred francs. Gives up his law studies, decides to be a painter.  
1890 Military Service at Bourgoin. The Parade (Private collection, Switzerland). His sister Andrée marries his friend Claude Terrasse, the composer. Shares a studio, 28, rue Pigalle, Montmartre, with Vuillard, Maurice Denis and Lugné-Poë.  
1891 Exhibits 9 pictures at Salon des Indépendants, which are praised by G. Geffroy, the critic. The Natanson Brothers launch La Revue Blanche, in which he at once collaborates. The "Nabis" have their first exhibition in Le Barc de Boutteville's Gallery.  
1892 Again exhibits in Salon des Indépendants (March-April) and at Le Barc de Boutteville's (November). Small stylized black and grey panels, much admired by R. Marx and Aurier. Tête de Femme (Plate, p. 102 ), Corsage à carreaux (Ch. Terrasse Coll., Fontainebleau). At Père Tanguy's shop studies Cézanne's canvases. Strikes up friendship with Odilon Redon.  
1893 Has a studio 63, rue de Douai. Colourlithographs for La Revue Blanche and L'Escarmouche. Lugné-Poë founds Le Théâtre de l'Oeuvre; Bonnard helps with the sets and costumes. Meets Vollard, who is now opening his gallery.  
1895 Vollard publishes Quelques aspects de la Vie de Paris, with 12 lithographs by Bonnard. Tiffany exhibits at the Salon a set of  stainedglass windows, one of which, Maternity, is from a design by Bonnard. Bonnard sometimes accompanies Lautrec in his nocturnal jaunts in Montmartre.
1896 Bonnard's first exhibition, in Durand-Ruel's gallery, is discussed at length by G. Geffroy and T. Natanson. Collaborates with Terrasse at the Théâtre des Pantins.  
1897 Group exhibition at Vollard's. Lithographs shown at La Libre Esthétique, Brussels.  
1898 Bonnard illustrates Marie, a novel by Peter Nansen ; his first illustrated book. In the spring begins the illustration of Verlaine Parallèlement, commissioned by Vollard; the sketches are intermingled with the printed matter -- the first indication of a form the modern illustrated book was often to take.  
1899 Large-scale group exhibition at Durand-Ruel's as a 'homage' to Odilon Redon. Bonnard enters into contact with Bernheim-Jeune gallery, and continues to frequent the Revue Blanche group. Very friendly with Felix Fénéon.  
1900 From 1890 to 1900 shares his time between Paris and the family home in Dauphiné. From 1900 onwards alternates his stays between Paris and the neighbourhood; rents a little country house at Montval; often visits Denis at St. Germain-en-Laye and Roussel at l'Etang-la-Ville.  
1901 Exhibits a large triptych at Salon des Indépendants.  
1902 Vollard publishes Daphnis et Chloé with Bonnard illustrations.  
1903 Exhibits at the first Salon d'Automne Bourgeois Afternoon.
1904 Illustrates Jules Renard Histoires Naturelles. One-man show at Bernheim's: intimate scenes, women dressing.  
1905 Two pictures at Salon des Indépendants, five at Salon d'Automne, admired by André Gide. Spends his summers at Villennes or Vernouillet, sometimes at Cotteville in Normandy.
1907-10 Travels in Belgium, Holland, England, Italy, Spain, Tunisia.  
1912 Buys a small house at Vernonnet near Vernon Ma Roulotte. From now on till 1938 he divides his time between the Seine Valley and the South ( Grasse, St.-Tropez, Le Cannet). Declines Legion of Honour decoration. Has studio in Paris, 22, rue Tourlaque. His palette has grown brighter, as a result of the Provençal atmosphere. Large decorative panels.  
1913 Travels in Holland and, with Vuillard, in England.  
1914-18 Lives at St. Germain-en-Laye.  
1918 Spends the summer at Uriage. Has a studio in Paris, 56, rue Molitor.  
1923 Death of Claude Terrasse.  
1925 Buys a small house at Le Cannet, near Cannes. Watercolours. His Paris residence: 48, Boulevard des Batignolles.  
1926 Goes to the United States.  
1930-32 Arcachon. Winters at Le Cannet.  
1930-38 Spends summer at Deauville and Trouville. Seascapes.
1940 Deaths of Madame Bonnard and Vuillard. Bonnard retires permanently to his country home at Le Cannet (a brief stay in Paris, in 1945). His lyrical emotion rises to a last, vivid intensity. His final achievement is a decorative religious work: Saint François de Sales Visiting the Sick, an altar picture for the church at Assy in the Haute-Savoie.  
1947 Dies, January 23, at Le Cannet.  
French painter born at Fontenay-aux-Roses in 1867; died at Le Cannet, 1947. The charming name of this Parisian suburb, conjuring up as it does visions of flowers and colourful retreats, was apt for the birthplace of a great painter whose art is all in delicate nuances, fine shades of feeling. About 1891 Bonnard and his friends, who called themselves the Nabis, and whom the critics named the Symbolists or the Revue Blanche painters, exhibited their work for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants and in the small gallery of Le Barc de Boutteville. Maurice Denis was only twentythree, Vuillard, Roussel and Bonnard were almost twenty-five, and Lautrec was three years their senior. Tall, thin, bony and withdrawn, Bonnard used to baffle people at first. He seemed to hold himself aloof from everyone and be perpetually on the defensive, even to a point of actual mistrust. Still uncertain of himself, he was first attracted by the applied arts: furniture, fans, screens, ceramics, theatre décors. In 1891 a coloured poster ( France-Champagne) was the first to display in Paris the initials and energy of this painter, who readily accepted any kind of work that came his way. There was already a mixture of playfulness, humour and tenderness in his pictures, his first lithographs, and his sculptures. With boldness and precision, yet with the eyes of a Romantic, he explored the unknown around him, transforming everything he looked at: gardens and flower-filled rooms, the sea, the breakfast table, the boulevards, women, children, dogs. Of an extremely retiring nature, he went to live at Le Cannet, a village above Cannes, in a little villa with bare, white wooden furniture. This tiny studio, like the place he bought at Vernon in the Eure, and called 'The Trailer', testified to his profound disinterest in material comfort. He never showed his pictures in a frame to enhance their value. Water-colours, sketches, all done on any piece of paper that happened to come to hand, were carelessly tied up with string, or lay about in the dust of his studio. Humble in his methods but uncompromising in character, incapable of any concession to vanity or to money, preserving to the last his original shyness and diffidence, his ardour and his animal vitality, he always started from his own version of truth, rebelling against fashions and theories. Superficially there might be a certain similarity between some of his landscapes and still lifes, and certain creations of the great Impressionists (particularly Claude Monet), arising out of the way he deliberately forgot realities when he began to paint. But Bonnard's method of procedure was actually quite different. Suffering, like his friends Vuillard and Roussel, from the inadequacies of a technique which they were obliged to reinvent, working simultaneously on a number of different pictures, he was eternally making changes in them, sometimes for years, before he was satisfied. He would even go to retouch his canvases in the museums, much to the astonishment of the guards.
It was natural that, between the two wars, when reaction against Impressionism was so strong, Bonnard should be reproached for his lack of construction and the sketchiness of his drawing. His critics did not realize that the strength and freedom of his artistic response allowed him to carry off even the most complicated of problems. He was not a theoretician, and it was by the most contradictory -- often the most paradoxical -- routes that this modest explorer succeeded in fulfilling the missions he set himself. The constant transposition of line as well as of colour, the gift of forgetting the local tone of objects as well as the usual way of treating them, the art of considering the picture a closed universe with its own private needs -- that is what is so deeply moving and charming in these miracles of invention, where fantasy becomes more true than reality. The originality and courage of this painter, who was so frail and cautious in appearance, is shown by the sense of mystery he extracts from everyday scenes. Bonnard always reminds one of a sleeper startled out of his sleep, who no longer knows either the name or the weight of things, nor even the proportions of his own room. In Bonnard, however, this is never the effect of systematic or deliberate confusion. Delivered from the tyrannies of perspective and lighting, Nature becomes fairylike. Where we think we should encounter a solid, there is only transparency; where we expect shade, there is only light: every assumption is foiled by a great creative vision and an intuition which reconstructs the universe. With the marvellous simplicity of a poet, he amuses himself, and wonders, and is moved by everything and nothing. Referring to one of his Bouquets, he confided to a critic who was interviewing him: 'The presence of the object, the motif, is disturbing to a painter. An idea being the starting-point of a picture, there is danger that he will allow himself to be influenced by the immediate, direct view of its details, if the object is there while he works. Through the sway his original idea holds over him, the painter attains the universal. If this idea fades, there remains only the motif, the object, which overcomes the painter. From that moment he is no longer painting his own picture.' He also said: 'Defects are what give life to a picture'.
There is no abrupt break, no inconsistency in his work, from the first small panels inspired by Paris and its suburbs -- washerwomen, children, errand boys and dogs, painted on pasteboard with a cold palette of velvety black and Watteaulike greys and whites -- to the compositions of the latter part of his life: luminous bathers, fabulous animals and people, still lifes saturated in colour, landscapes in which skies are of an opaque black, shadows of translucent gold, and rose-coloured meadows. Sometimes we see a glossy interior, shimmering with colour, contrasting its clarity and transparency with the resistant opaqueness of a landscape, an inert block framed by a window. There, nude bodies appear so integrated with the room that it is difficult to say whether they colour the surrounding space or take their existence from it. The pearly flesh of a thigh seems to be composed of the same substance as the furniture against which it stands out miraculously; but at the same time the back of this bathing woman, like an idol, seems part of the golden atmosphere of the room. Certain torsos, the focal point of so many reflections, seem to be marked with azure scars and pink stigmata. Some fruit baskets carry miraculous shadows. No one has ever made such a poetic fairy tale out of the most ordinary objects of our daily lives. At seventy-five, as at twenty, before woman -- such a little girl in spite of the fullness of her body! -- he shows the same trembling, the same love for that most mysterious of fruits, that incomprehensible and complementary being; and he feels the same sense of wonder before a dog, a child, or the sky.
Whether it be a picture, a print, a poster, an illustration, a statuette -- and all these activities were complementary, -- Bonnard was never hampered by scene or action. He never lapsed into artificiality, sham antiquity or conventionalism if he tried to create a Greek atmosphere, and he avoided what might become outdated when he depicted the present. For he knew that the same events keep on repeating themselves under changing skies, that life will always have the same charm and the same limitations, that desire always follows the same course. No matter what he undertook, he questioned everything, reinvented the theme as well as the means of executing it, and right to the end of his life he devoted his seriousness and his experience to exploiting the most marvellous of his gifts -- his youthfulness.
Bonnard's art inaugurated the period of Modern Painting. It contains intimations of Fauvism, in that it enables visual sensations to express themselves with a hitherto undreamedof intensity. Perhaps Bonnard was the true creator of that romantic cult of pure colour, which, while provoking the inevitable reprisals from embattled classicism, led painting towards a fuller emancipation from the tyranny of the object.
Exhibitions
1896, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (49 paintings, lithographs); Gal. Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1904; 1909, February (36 paint.); 1910, March (34 paint.); 1911, May-June (21 paint.); 1912, June-July; 1913, May-June (21 paint.); 1917, Oct.-Nov. (11 paint.); 1924, April, Gal. Druet, Paris, Retrospective 1891-1922; 1924, June-July; 1926, May-June (24 paint.); 1926, Nov.-Dec., Gal. Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (20 paint.); 1928, April, De Haucke & Co., New York (40 paint. Introduced by C. Anet) ; 1932, May 29-July 3, Zurich, Kunsthalle, Bonnard-Vuillard; 1934, March, Wildenstein Gallery, New York (44 paint.); 1941 and 1943, Galerie Pétridès, Paris; 1942, March, Weyhe Gal., New York; 1946, June-July, Gal. Bernheim, Paris (34 paint.); 1946, Dec.1947, Jan., Bignou Gal., New York (15 paint.); 1947, Hommage du Salon d'Automne et du Salon des Indépendants; 1947, May, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen (69 items); 1947, Oct.-Dec., Orangerie, Paris (197 items. Prefaced by C. Terrasse); 1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York (147 items); 1949, June-July, Kunsthaus, Zurich (250 items. Prefaced by J. Leymarie, Introduction by W. Wartmann).
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J

This website is created and designed by Atlantis International, 2006
This is an unofficial website with educational purpose. All pictures, and trademarks are the property of their respective owners and may not be reproduced for any reason whatsoever. If proper notation of owned material is not given please notify us so we can make adjustments. No copyright infringement is intended.
Mail Us