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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Girl Playing with a Dog (Vivette Terrasse) - 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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Girl Playing with a Dog (Vivette Terrasse)
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  • Girl Playing with a Dog (Vivette Terrasse)

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    Oil on canvas
    29 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.
    Private Collection.

    Bonnard's niece, Vivette Terrasse, appears in the garden of the family home at Grand-Lemps. Seen in full figure with basket in hand, she runs along a path with a scampering dog beside. Pressed close to the picture plane, with paws and feet touching the painting's lower edge, they appear poised to leap into our space, while the garden with its fountain and foliage stretches away behind them. Conflating the genres of portraiture and landscape, this work weds the two trajectories of Bonnard's work in the teens - society portraits and modern idylls.

    This is one of the many occasions in which Bonnard took his ancestral home in the Dauphiné as his subject. It was here that he would spend several weeks each spring in the company of his sister Andrée, her husband the composer Claude Terrasse, and their three children. It is possible that Vivette appears as one of the younger children in foreground of La Famille au jardin (Grand-Lemps), circa 1901 (see fig. 1). In that large composition Claude Terrasse sits cross-legged at left seemingly presiding over the domestic bliss around him replete with numerous children, pets and visitors.

    The conflation of portraiture and the leisure activities of the bourgeoisie in the present work and its precedent recalls Impressionist concerns. Indeed, Bonnard's work from 1900-1914 has been described as belated Impressionism. Writing of his engagement with the concerns of the artistic movement several decades after its inception, Bonnard stated: "When my friends and I decided to pick up the research of the Impressionists, and to attempt to take it further, we wanted to outshine them in their naturalistic impressions of color. Art is not nature. We were stricter in composition. There was a lot more to be got out of color as a means of expression" (quoted by Timothy Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1998, p. 65). Jeune fille jouant avec un chien (Vivette Terrasse) exemplifies the method by which Bonnard sought to take color further. The high-keyed color of the canvas is the result of the white underpainting upon which the work was executed. Intense sunlight appears to glisten on Vivette's shoulders and the dog's back, while the garden path and vegetation shimmer. Bonnard's quick, visible brushwork likewise infuses the canvas with vibrant movement.

    Both the subject of this work and its execution point to Bonnard's high regard for Renoir at this time (see fig. 2). Describing his influence as "that of a rather severe father", Bonnard wrote that he admired Renoir's ability "to project, even upon the model and lighting somewhat lacking in luster, his recollections of more joyous times. He created a magnificent universe for himself" (quoted in Hyman, op. cit., p. 67). Likewise, Jeune fille jouant avec un chien (Vivette Terrasse) attests to Bonnard's claim that "Art is not nature" and projects an image even more exuberant than the subject which he painted.

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Garden with Red Tree
Garden with Red Tree
Gardens of Tuileries
Gardens of Tuileries
Girl with a Dog in the Park at Grand Lemps (Dauphine)
Girl with a Dog in the Park at Grand Lemps (Dauphine)
Girl with Parrot
Girl with Parrot
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.