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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Fleurs de Champs - 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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Fleurs de Champs
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  • Fleurs de Champs

  • Pierre Bonnard
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  • Field flowers
    circa 1916
    Oil on canvas

    Painted circa 1916, Fleurs de champs is a beautifully orchestrated celebration of colour and life. Infused with the vitality of the flowers at its centre, this typically intimiste scene perfectly evokes an atmosphere of sunlit, rural abundance, whilst the flattened and tilted perspectives illustrate the extent of Bonnard’s visual experimentation.

    As for many of the artists of his generation, such as Renoir (fig. 1), the still life was an important part of Bonnard’s ?uvre. He painted items that were familiar to him, often returning to the same objects time and again; the checked tablecloth and floral-patterned jug in the present work reappear in a later still life of 1925 (fig. 2) suggesting objects that were part of the fabric of his everyday life and work. This familiarity was an important element of Bonnard’s practice as he rarely worked from life, preferring to work from memory, with these objects acting as cognitive stimuli. Dita Amory describes the effect of this process: ‘As Bonnard painted his memory of the still life in the other room, he edited out extraneous information, uncluttering the composition. What he rendered permanent was the experience of passing through, say, the dining room set for breakfast…’ (D. Amory in Pierre Bonnard. The Late Still Lifes and Interiors (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 11).

    This process reflected Bonnard’s investigative approach to painting which he summarised in a statement to his nephew Charles Terrasse in 1927, ‘The eye of the painter gives human value to objects, reproduces things as a human eye sees them. And this vision is mobile. And this vision is variable... The eye sees distant masses as having an almost linear aspect, without relief, without depth. But near objects rise towards it. The sides trail away. And these vanishing trails are sometimes rectilinear – for what is distant – sometimes curved – for planes that are near. The vision of distant things is a flat vision. It is the near planes that give the idea of the universe as the human eye sees it’ (quoted in Bonnard. The Work of Art: Suspending Time (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, 2006, p. 57).

    Fleurs de champs also highlights Bonnard’s masterful use of colour as a compositional tool. The painting sings with the vivid energy of the red flowers, yet the composition is unified by the clear luminosity of the colouring that pervades the canvas. The effect this produces is characterised by Ursula Perucchi-Petri: ‘The intricately woven tapestry of colour with its warp and weft of figures and objects draws proximity and distance together in a vibrant fabric. This lends the space a floating aspect…’ (U. Perucchi-Petri in Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C., 2002, p. 202). In Fleurs de champs this creates a dynamic between foreground and background that fills the canvas with a sense of energy and emphasises the spaces surrounding the vibrant arrangement of flowers at the heart of the composition.

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Fish in a Dish
Fish in a Dish
Fishing Port
Fishing Port
Flowered Garden Corner (Cactus)
Flowered Garden Corner (Cactus)
Flowering Trees, White House
Flowering Trees, White House
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.