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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Marine Saint-Tropez Where the Trees and The Sea - 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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Marine Saint-Tropez Where the Trees and The Sea
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  • Marine Saint-Tropez Where the Trees and The Sea

  • Pierre Bonnard
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  • MARINE SAINT-TROPEZ Où LES ARBRES ET LA MER
    1911
    Oil on canvas
    Private Collection, Europe.

    Pierre Bonnard visited the C?te d’Azur for the first time in 1906 and returned to the region around Saint-Tropez several times in the following years. The light and colors of the Mediterranean profoundly captivated him and in a letter to his mother he would describe his discovery of the South as a magical epiphany: “I had an ‘Arabian Nights experience.' The sea, the yellow walls, and reflections as colourful as the lights themselves…” (quoted in Annette Vaillant, Bonnard ou le Bonheur de voir, Neuchatel, 1965, p. 115, translated from the French).

    In the spring and summer of 1911, he visited Saint-Tropez no less than three times in the company of his friends Paul Signac and Henri Manguin, drawn to the lush vegetation and the dazzling light that reflected off the water. In this luminous seascape from the same year, painted in a symphony of emerald and aquamarine, we see the transformative effect of these Mediterranean surroundings on his art. Bonnard famously did not paint from life or on location outdoors; therefore it is likely that he would have first sketched this view, perhaps even taking photographs, and made notes on the colors before returning to his studio to paint the canvas. The composition thus exudes a supernatural, phosphorescent light—we experience the colors as Bonnard remembers them; the real landscape is filtered through the artist’s imagination. As Patrick Lacquemont notes in the introduction to the major retrospective at the Musée d’Orsay this year, though Bonnard drew subject matter from the material world, his was an Arcadian universe in which Art and the quest for the Ideal shaped his experience: “Literature and music drive his inspiration, in which the real is fused with the imaginary in compositions saturated with color and light” (Patrick Lacquemont in Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2015, p. 7).

    Following the success of these first, fruitful sojourns to Provence, Bonnard would eventually abandon Paris altogether, purchasing a home in Le Cannet in 1926 and remaining there for the rest of his life. Nicholas Watkins has observed that a real distinction can be drawn between Bonnard’s Northern and Southern landscapes: “Whereas in the former he was more concerned with capturing the transient effects of weather, in the latter the permanence of atmosphere drew him into an alternative Mediterranean vision of a classical Golden Age. Cézanne and Renoir, rather than Monet, became his mentors in the south. The greens of his first terrace decoration at Vernonnet gave way to the pervasive golden light” (Nicholas Watkins, Bonnard, London, 1994, p. 156). The influence of Cézanne can certainly be seen in this radiant composition, with its broken and visible brush marks and simplification of forms. Bonnard used aspects of Impressionism to help him obtain greater artistic freedom, as he himself recounted: “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 in Timothy Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1988, p. 65).

    Marine Saint-Tropez has a particularly prestigious provenance: its first owner was the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, who purchased it directly from the artist soon after its completion and included it in a monographic exhibition of Bonnard’s recent pictures in 1912. It was later acquired by two legendary early twentieth-century collectors, Marcel Kapferer and then Gaston Lévy. Since the 1930s it has remained in a private French collection and has never again been exhibited nor illustrated in color.

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Corner of Table with Black Cat
Corner of Table with Black Cat
Naked Woman Sitting on a Couch
Naked Woman Sitting on a Couch
Lemon trees at Cannet
Lemon trees at Cannet
Blue Morning or Small River
Blue Morning or Small River
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.