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  • Pierre Bonnard
    Oct 03, 1867 - Jan 23, 1947
  • Woman at a Table - 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 at a Table
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  • Woman at a Table

  • Pierre Bonnard
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    Oil on canvas

    Executed in 1923, Femme à table is a remarkably vibrant composition that explores two of Bonnard's main themes, the intimate moments of everyday life and portraiture. The present work shares the brilliant quality of light characteristic found in Bonnard's Mediterranean works also dating from this time period, with the light breaking through onto the scene and enveloping the table scape and the seated woman with a warm glow and bursting color. Discussing Bonnard's work from the period, John Rewald notes, "With the exception of Vuillard, no painter of his generation was to endow his technique with so much sensual delight, so much feeling for the indefinable texture of paint, so much vibration. His paintings are covered with color applied with a delicate voluptuousness that confers to the pigment a life of its own and treats every single stroke like a clear note of a symphony. At the same time Bonnard's colors changed from opaque to transparent and brilliant, and his perceptiveness seemed to grow as his brush found ever more expert and more subtle means to capture the richness both of his imagination and of nature" (J. Rewald in Pierre Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1948, p. 48).

    The woman in the present work bears a striking resemblance to Bonnard's wife Marthe the beloved subject of many works throughout his oeuvre. Here, she is the linchpin of the composition situated at the center. Bonnard's main concern was to capture the quiet moments of domestic life in a decorative and modern style. In Femme à table, balance is struck between the jostle and brightness of the paint and the quiet, almost meditative stillness of the moment. Timothy Hyman comments on this focus stating, "Bonnard's art could not operate within the vestigial spatial formula inherited by most twentieth-century painters; that shallow shelf, or simplified vertical/horizontal grid, which was the legacy of Poussin and David, via Cézanne and Cubism. In the previously unchartered territory of peripheral vision, Bonnard discovered strange flattening, wobbles, sifts of angle as well as of color, and darkening of tone, penumbral adventures and metamorphoses which liberated him from visual convention. It was as though the central area of fact were surrounded by much less predictable, almost fabulous margins; where imagination and reverie and memory could be asserted as a heightened reality, in impossible intensities of color" (T. Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1998, pp. 160-161).

    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 absorb the spatial relationships of all of its elements. John Elderfield wrote about the importance of examining Bonnard's pictures carefully, stating, "Bonnard would say that, first and foremost, he sought to paint the savor of things, to recover their savor. This is his Chardin side. He requires that a painting be slowly absorbed, be savored, so that its surprises well up, one after another, into the field of perception and thereby articulate the original seductive vision in its performative representation by the beholder" (Sarah Whitfield & John Elderfield, Bonnard [exhibition catalogue], Tate Gallery, London & The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, pp. 47-48).

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Other paintings by Pierre Bonnard:

Portrait of a Young Woman with Hat
Portrait of a Young Woman with Hat
Cinq Personnages
Cinq Personnages
The Bathtub
The Bathtub
La Promenade (The Walk)
La Promenade (The Walk)
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.