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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Vase of Flowers with Figure - 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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Vase of Flowers with Figure
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  • Vase of Flowers with Figure

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    The glistening earthenware and vibrant floral arrangement of Vase de fleurs avec figure combine the intimisme of Bonnard's earlier Nabis pictures with the vibrant coloration of his later years. Still-lifes had occupied a large part of the artist's oeuvre over the course of his career, but as he developed his style, his approach became more experimental. The present composition illustrates his more daring approach to pictorial arrangement. The floral still life, the focal point of the scene, is positioned in the middle-distance, surrounded by tonally-variant washes of red paint that foreshadow the techniques of Abstract Expressionists nearly two decades later.

    Bonnard’s comments on his floral paintings are particularly insightful when considering Vase de fleurs avec figure: “I often see interesting things to paint around me, but for me to have the desire to paint them, they must have a special seduction – beauty – what one could call beauty. I paint them trying to keep control of my original idea, but I am weak, and if I let myself go, like with the bouquet of roses, in a moment, I have lost my first impression, and I no longer know where I am going” (quoted in Bonnard: The Late Paintings (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. & Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 1984, p. 138).

    The beautifully-rendered arrangement here stands in contrast with the more loosely painted background. Set slightly off centre, the wild bouquet dominates the composition, stretching toward its borders. The abruptly-cropped format, made all the more dramatic by the appearance of the disembodied profile of Marthe in the upper left, emphasizes the typically intimiste character of the scene. The spatially-ambiguous positioning of the compositional elements is strongly reminiscent of Matisse's still-lifes and interior scenes. Elie Faure summarised the art of Pierre Bonnard: 'He has this, as do all masters: the surprising freedom that there are so very many things to love all at once, and to understand almost as quickly, to reproduce according to the new order of his being, in a rhythm that confuses and amazes every time' (quoted in Les Cahiers d'aujourd'hui, December 1912, pp. 263-266).

    In the recent exhibition catalogue on Bonnard's still-lifes, Dita Amory describes how Bonnard developed relationships with objects he painted, enabling him to reveal a particular beauty that might otherwise overlooked: "In all his waking moments, Bonnard was searching for the shock of an image, for its potential to become a painting. In that sense he was not a voyeur but a silent witness, someone simultaneously inside and outside of any given moment. His discreet presence in the room where he worked gave him status equal to that of the objects he painted; he was one with the chair, the sugar bowl, the teapot, the saltcellar. In order to paint and object he needed to be familiar with it, to see it sympathetically, or has having its own personality. Once, when asked to consider some charming ensemble as a potential still life, he responded simply, 'I haven't lived with that long enough to paint it'" (D. Amory, "The Presence of Objects: Still Life in Bonnard's Late Paintings," in Pierre Bonnard, The Late Still Lifes and Interiors (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 26).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Two Ladies with Cat at the Table (The Two Sisters)
Two Ladies with Cat at the Table (The Two Sisters)
Two Poodles
Two Poodles
Vase with Anemonies and Empty Vase
Vase with Anemonies and Empty Vase
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.