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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Apples in a Plate on a Tablecloth - Pierre Bonnard was a French painter who helped provide a bridge between impressionism and the abstraction explored by post-impressionists. He is known for the bold colors in his work and a fondness for painting elements of everyday life, member of the group of artists called the Nabis and afterward a leader of the Intimists; he is generally regarded as one of the greatest colourists of modern art.
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Apples in a Plate on a Tablecloth
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  • Apples in a Plate on a Tablecloth

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    circa 1935
    Oil on canvas
    Private Collection, United States.

    Pommes dans un plat sur une nappe may be counted among the most exquisite and also the very last still lifes that Bonnard ever painted. This recurring motif was derived from the interior of his beloved house in Le Cannet, a small and charming town overlooking Cannes and the coastline of the C?te d’Azur, and yet this painting is far from a literal record of his household. Bonnard spent most of 1903 travelling between Trouville, London, Vernon and Deauville, and he longed for Le Cannet, his favorite place of retreat and future permanent home. He most likely painted this work while on the move—he always had his brushes, palettes and canvases at hand and insisted on adding further and further "final" touches to his works. Pommes dans un plat sur une nappe is presumed to represent Bonnard’s yearning for stability and permanence, associated with the simplicity of the familiar, including food set at the family table.

    Unlike Bonnard’s earlier, often very decorative records of the everyday, the present work is striking for its relative austerity. The artist presents the viewer with an unexpectedly modest portrayal of a patterned Proven?al fruit bowl juxtaposed with a shimmering blue-white cloth against a blended background. The overall fleeting appearance of the scene, comprised of vibrating, urgent brushstrokes, abandoned perspective and calculated lack of detail, gives some shape to the artist's impassioned technique. At the same time, this image is one of Bonnard’s most successful painterly representations of what he called "mobile vision." As the artist declared, he sought to "give the impression one has on entering a room: one sees everything and at the same time nothing" (Dita Amory, Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 71). Like the Symbolist poets before him, Bonnard firmly believed that "to name an object is to destroy three-quarters of the pleasure we take in it, which is derived from the enjoyment of guessing by degrees; of suggesting it" (Sarah Whitfield & John Elderfield, Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 12-13).

    A playful exercise in self-introspection, Pommes dans un plat sur une nappe confirms Bonnard’s position among the greatest pioneers of modern still-life painting. Displaying parallels with the seventeenth-century grandfather of this genre, Jean-Siméon Chardin, this work also follows the path set out by Paul Cézanne (see fig. 1). Where Cézanne scientifically examines the spatial relations of the numerous objects depicted, Bonnard focuses on the ephemerality of first impressions. As the artist and writer Patrick Heron remarked, Bonnard "knows how to make a virtue of emptiness, how to keep a great expanse of picture surface intensely meaningful" (quoted in ibid., p. 32).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

A Young Girl
A Young Girl
Ambroise Vollard
Ambroise Vollard
At Grand Lemps (The Park)
At Grand Lemps (The Park)
Pierre BonnardPierre Bonnard was a French Post-Impressionist painter remembered for his ability to convey dazzling light with juxtapositions of vibrant color. “What I am after is the first impression—I want to show all one sees on first entering the room—what my eye takes in at first glance,” he said of his work. Born on October 3, 1867 in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, Bonnard studied law at the Sorbonne, graduating in 1888. During this time, he was also enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts but left to attend the Académie Julian in 1889. At this more open-minded painting academy, Bonnard met Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier, and Édouard Vuillard, among others. Together with these artists he helped from a group known as the Nabis, who were influenced by Japanese prints and the use of flat areas of color. Early on in his career, Bonnard was better known for his prints and posters than for his paintings. Moving to the South of France in 1910, over the following decades, Bonnard receded from the forefront of the art world, mainly producing tapestry-like paintings of his wife Marthe in their home. Late works of Bonnard, such as The Terrace at Vernonnet (1939), more closely resembled a continuation of Impressionism than other avant-garde styles of the era. Because of this, at the time of his death on January 23, 1947 in Le Cannet, France, the artist’s work had been largely discounted as regressive. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.