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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Garden by the Seine - 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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Garden by the Seine
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  • Garden by the Seine

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    circa 1912
    Oil on canvas

    Jardin au bord de la Seine, painted circa 1912, is an exemplary work which demonstrates Bonnard's delight in depicting domestic landscapes. This richly hued canvas depicts the corner of his garden at Vernonnet overlooking a serene horizon which the artist has entirely saturated with dense color. In the summer of 1912 Bonnard and his model (and future wife) Marthe visited Grasse in the South of France before purchasing a house in the hamlet of Vernonnet called "Ma Roulotte," where they lived until the late 1920s. Vernonnet is situated only a couple of miles west of Giverny, where his close friend Monet lived and worked for nearly thirty years. Bonnard's garden scenes employ a typically Post-Impressionist rejection of traditional perspective, but unlike his neighbor Monet, he never resorted to pure abstraction. Jean-Louis Prat notes: "Bonnard always developed his own visual language, firmly rooted in reality. He did not, like Monet, virtually do away with the subject itself. He always used forms, without experimenting with abstraction, or even contemplating it" (Jean-Louis Prat, "Pierre Bonnard or An Enduring Painter," Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 1999, p. 19). Bonnard's pictures—composed of stylized forms and displaying a flattened perspective—captured views of untrammeled wild flowers, exotic foliage and trees against clear skies and evoking an identifiable sense of Edenic exuberance.

    The present work marks the beginning of the final stage in Bonnard's development as a painter. Throughout the following three decades the artist concentrated on depicting his immediate surroundings in a purely tonal fashion. The artist wrote: "Color alone will suffice to express all one wants to say... there is no need for highlighting or modelling in painting. It seemed possible for me to reproduce light, shape and character by the use of color alone, without the help of any values" (quoted in Antoine Terrasse, "Some Thoughts on Pierre Bonnard," Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Salis, Salzburg, 1991, n.p.). Furthermore, Bonnard stated in 1935: "I have become a painter of landscapes, not because I have painted landscapes—I have done only a few—but because I have acquired the soul of a landscape painter insofar as I have been able to free myself of everything picturesque, aesthetical or any other convention that has been poisoning me"' (quoted in ibid., n.p.).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Garden at Midday
Garden at Midday
Garden at Vernonnet
Garden at Vernonnet
Garden in Vernon or Landscape at the Edge of the Seine
Garden in Vernon or Landscape at the Edge of the Seine
Garden with Red Tree
Garden with Red Tree
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.