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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Garden at Vernonnet - 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 at Vernonnet
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  • Garden at Vernonnet

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

    Pierre Bonnard was continually inspired by the enchanting surroundings of his home in Vernonnet. His small house was situated on the Seine not far from the famed gardens of Giverny which at this time were providing fruitful subject matter for Claude Monet. The present bucolic composition evokes one of Bonnard’s most celebrated works from this period, Salle à manger à la champagne (see fig.1). The same delicate tree and pink roses animating the horizon are found in their full splendour in the present work. Sarah Whitfield explains how Bonnard succeeded in composing scenes characterized by a strong contrast between the intimate interior and abundant exterior (Sarah Whitfield, "Fragments of an Identical World," in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p.12). Salle à manger à la champagne illustrates this juxtaposition; the interior, composed of doors, window frames and panes, provide a closed structure that tantalizingly hints at the oasis outside. In Jardin à Vernonnet, the artist allows us to cross the boundary and embrace the oasis. In this outstanding work there are no more formal barriers: we are immersed in luxurious nature.

    The present work illustrates not only Bonnard’s creative delight in his gardens but also his predilection for sunset scenery. The artist painted numerous works at this time of day, achieving exquisite tonal contrasts as he captured the capricious effects of light. Jardin à Vernonnet, dominated by a marvellous crepuscular sky, marks a significant evolution in Bonnard’s technique. The lower half of the composition demonstrates Bonnard’s inherited artistic affinity with the Impressionist style; the bright palette of the foreground and lively brushstrokes evoke Monet’s landscapes while the roses emulate Renoir’s favorite flowers. In the upper half of the painting, however, and in the remarkable horizon, Bonnard’s approach testifies to his growing empathy with the Nabis group. Following Gauguin’s principle of pure color and flat decorative composition, the Nabis converged Art Nouveau aesthetics and mystical philosophy. The striking contrast of the tree’s branches with the golden sky attests to the influence of Japanese prints on Bonnard and the Nabis. In the present work, Bonnard seems to depict his own artistic path: from his familiar garden rendered from techniques inherited from a former generation, we are transported to a wild horizon and the Post-Impressionist direction to which his art is heading, presaging an unknown and future modernity.

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Fruit on the Red Carpet
Fruit on the Red Carpet
Garden at Midday
Garden at Midday
Garden by the Seine
Garden by the Seine
Garden in Vernon or Landscape at the Edge of the Seine
Garden in Vernon or Landscape at the Edge of the Seine
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.