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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Woman in an Interior - 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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Woman in an Interior
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  • Woman in an Interior

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    circa 1903
    Oil on canvas

    Femme dans un intérieur is a fascinating example of Pierre Bonnard’s domestic interiors. The theme of la vie bourgeoise preoccupied the artist from the time of his earlier intimiste scenes of the 1890s until the end of his career. Shortly before painting this composition, Bonnard had travelled extensively in Northern and Southern Europe with various companions including édouard Vuillard, with whom he travelled to both Italy and Spain (see fig. 1). These trips coincided with a new annual schedule in which Bonnard spent an increasing amount of time outside Paris, and it was on these trips outside urban centers that he developed, from his earlier Nabis style, an interest in Impressionism. Femme dans un interior, while representing the artist’s interest in intimiste scenes, shows a stylistic evolution away from the flat planes of the Japanese woodblock print.

    While his style at this time shifted considerably and later would evolve further with his dramatic use of bright color, his interest in painting his surroundings never changed. Bonnard was famously private, yet his personal world was publically exhibited in his art. Sarah Whitfield remarks on the intensely personal nature of his paintings: “Yet, from the start, this modest and most discreet of men, this least public of artists made his daily life the subject of his art, observing steadily and calmly everything that was closest to him: his family, his surroundings, his companion, his animals, ‘I have all my subjects to hand,’ he said, ‘I go and look at them. I take notes. Then I go home. And before I start painting I reflect, I dream...' There is a feeling of closeness, of people living together, quietly going about the mundane household tasks, sitting down to meals together. The moments he chooses to paint are the soothing lulls that punctuate a domestic routine. These are intensely private pictures; as Raymond Cogniat observed: ‘Bonnard never paints the parts of the house where people work or receive visitors’” (quoted in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York & The Tate Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 9-10).

    As is the case for many of Bonnard’s best interior scenes, this picture requires the viewer to take time to look at the composition and make sense of the spatial relationships among its elements. Bonnard once said that he intended for his pictures "to show what one sees when one enters a room all of a sudden," and the present picture exemplifies this objective. Jean Clair wrote of the experience of looking at Bonnard's paintings, asserting that the artist intended "to paint the feeling of 'visual entirety' that one experiences on entering a room, before one has recognized, distinguished, brought into focus and identified the various details...the revolution in painting, brought about by Bonnard was that, for the first time, a painter attempted to translate onto canvas the data of a vision that is physiologically 'real...' He was the first artist to have attempted to portray on canvas the integrality of the field of vision and so bring nearer to the eye what classical perspective had kept at a distance" (ibid, p. 33).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Woman in a Polka Dot Dress
Woman in a Polka Dot Dress
Woman in a Tub (Nude Crouching in a Tub)
Woman in a Tub (Nude Crouching in a Tub)
Woman in Black Stockings
Woman in Black Stockings
Woman in Her Toilet (The Bathrobe)
Woman in Her Toilet (The Bathrobe)
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.