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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Section of Fruit Basket - 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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Section of Fruit Basket
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  • Section of Fruit Basket

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    Bonnard painted this vibrant still-life in 1944 while living in Le Cannet during the War. This subject had occupied a large part of the artist's oeuvre over the course of his career, but in his later pictures, his approach to these compositions is much more experimental. Although the date of this painting was originally believed to be around 1941, according to the catalogue raisonné, Antoine Terrasse later confirmed that it was in fact dated 1944. The work is closely related to a sketch in Bonnard's diary from that year, in which the same bowl, basket and and melon appear in a similar arrangement (fig. 1).

    Many of Bonnard's paintings explore the dramatic effect of rendering a void in the center of the composition, with the compositional elements relegated to the periphery. In her assessment of this painting in the exhibition catalogue Bonnard, The Late Paintings, Laure de Buzon-Vallet points out that "it is surprising, therefore, to see that there is a strong central element in Coupe et corbeille de fruits. The basket of fruit, although pushed into the upper corner, constitutes the focal point of the painting due to its intense lighting" (Laure de Buzon-Vallet, op. cit., p. 224). Even in the very early intimiste paintings of the 1890s, Bonnard had shown how the tightly circumscribed space of a tablecloth could be made to seem as expansive and limitless as landscape. Here, the large basket of fruit is positioned at the upper left corner, while the majority of the central zone is occupied by the table top.

    The plate at the upper edge of the composition is severely cropped and appears to fall out of focus, as if our eye were being directed towards the bowl of fruit towards the bottom center of the composition. The almost tremulous quality of Bonnard's vision in the last years, so movingly evident in this work, depends upon his heightened powers of perception, his fidelity to an experience both mobile and variable. Very often, as John Elderfield has recently pointed out, there is a blur that occurs near the center of Bonnard's composition, mimicking the eye's ability to focus on particular objects while obscuring others in the same line of sight: "A depiction of retinal blur will ... puzzle the eye which, having been stimulated into unproductive accommodation, will first continue to accommodate (like searching for something under obscure circumstances, something distant from the eye, or in shadow, or irradiating, or disintegrating....) until search for the signification in the 'void' overleads or frustrates the perceptual system and, in a reversal of tunnel vision, turns attention to the periphery, being egged on by sight of (previously occluded) peripheral elements. Then the center will call for attention again..." (John Elderfield, "Seeing Bonnard," Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998-99, p. 39).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Sea Landscape
Sea Landscape
Seaside, Children at the Barrier
Seaside, Children at the Barrier
Seine Edges or Sunny Landscape
Seine Edges or Sunny Landscape
Self Portrait
Self Portrait
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.