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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Terrace in the Midi - 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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Terrace in the Midi
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  • Terrace in the Midi

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    circa 1925
    Oil on canvas
    27 x 28.75 in.

    Terrasse dans le Midi was painted in the South of France, and with its long walls bathed in warm yellow sunlight, saturated blue sky and lush green trees, it is a beautiful example of Bonnard’s painting from this region. The scene depicts several figures promenading on a clear summer day when everything around them is glowing. Above the terrasse, a bright white fa?ade, typical of this region and executed in loose, spontaneous brushstrokes, is visible through the trees.

    In 1926 Bonnard bought a villa he called ‘Le Bosquet’ at Le Cannet (fig. 1), which provided him with a permanent source of inspiration. Situated above Cannes, on the C?te d’Azur, the house was surrounded by lush vegetation that could be seen from the house. Both the villa and the town itself offered the artist a wide array of subjects to paint, resulting in powerful, boldly coloured compositions. As J?rg Zutter wrote: ‘By 1931 Le Bosquet was Bonnard’s favourite place to work and in 1939 it became the couple’s permanent home. The house and its surroundings provided an ideal work environment for the artist, who continued to paint studies of Marthe, often standing in the bathroom or lying in the tub. He also painted still lifes, self-portraits, interiors and the views onto the countryside from different windows and doors [fig. 2]’ (J. Zutter in Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2003, p. 61).

    As a landscape painter, Bonnard was always fascinated by light and colour, and in the present work he beautifully rendered the unique quality of light in the Mediterranean. As James Elliott observed: ‘Bonnard was essentially a colorist. He devoted his main creative energies to wedding his sensations of color from nature to those from paint itself – sensations which he said thrilled and even bewildered him. Perceiving color with a highly developed sensitivity, he discovered new and unfamiliar effects from which he selected carefully, yet broadly and audaciously. […] Whether in narrow range or multitudinous variety, the colours move across the surface of his paintings in constantly shifting interplay, lending an extraordinary fascination to common subject Familiar sights – the pervading greenness of a landscape, the intensification of color in objects on a lightly overcast day – are given vivid life’ (J. Elliott, in Bonnard and His Environment (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1964, p. 25).

    The composition of Terrasse dans le Midi is dominated by large areas of pure pigment, particularly the lower half of the canvas, and by the accentuated horizontal lines. This almost abstract treatment of color has been compared to the paintings of Mark Rothko (fig. 3). Writing about the art of Bonnard and Rothko, Bernice Rose observed: ‘They are ultimately united by the idea that color in itself – abstract color – functions as the direct path to emotion, and emotion, flooding the painting with the light of a revelation, opens the way to imagery – to the idea that “whatever is painted lives exclusively through the life of painting.” Bonnard’s story traces and retraces the path of the liberation of color; his gift to Rothko – and Rothko’s debt to him – is the realization of that liberty’ (B. Rose in Bonnard, Rothko: Color and Light (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 5).

    The present work remained in the artist’s possession until his death in 1947, and was inherited by his nephew Charles Terrasse. Of all his family members, Terrasse is probably the one that Bonnard felt closest to, and his nephew’s admiration for the artist’s work is reflected in a major monograph on Bonnard which Terrasse published in 1927.

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Tall Nude (Woman Nude Standing)
Tall Nude (Woman Nude Standing)
Terrace and Balcony
Terrace and Balcony
The Almond Tree (L'Amandier)
The Almond Tree (L'Amandier)
The Almond Tree in Blossom
The Almond Tree in Blossom
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.