The French artist, Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), was a successful painter, draughtsman, photographer, printmaker, illustrator and interior designer, whose work continues to surprise and attract new generations of art lovers. While Bonnard is represented in public collections in Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the current exhibition is the first in this country for more than 30 years to display Bonnard in depth.
Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature seeks to reassess the art of Bonnard, bringing together more than 110 paintings, drawings, lithographs and photographs lent by leading art galleries, museums and private collectors world wide — most are being seen for the first time in Australia.
The exhibition follows Bonnard’s stylistic and iconographic development step by step, beginning with a group of stunning interiors, street scenes, posters, designs for books and furniture from the period of the 1890s.
Work from 1900–20 onwards includes a number of outstanding nudes, among them the National Gallery of Australia’s own Woman in Front of a Mirror c.1908. Portraits and group portraits include a gathering of Bonnard’s relatives, The Terrasse Family c.1902, at the family home at Le Grand-Lemps. From this period also are large decorations painted for the artist’s patrons in Paris.
The display continues with a group of Bonnard’s mature interiors and enigmatic landscapes. These include Balcony at Vernonnet c.1920 — a superb view of the garden of Bonnard’s new house at Vernonnet, a small village on the Seine west of Paris.
Contrasting with the northern landscapes, painted at Vernonnet and on the Atlantic coast, mature paintings and drawings from the 1930s through the period of World War II to the last years of Bonnard’s life, give insights into an enormous output of work created in Le Cannet in the South of France — where Bonnard bought a house in 1926, and where he lived permanently from 1939 until his death in 1947. These works — predominantly still lifes, sublime nudes, portraits and lyrical Mediterranean landscapes full of light and colour — reveal that Bonnard in his last decades had achieved a balance between observing, capturing and translating nature into a symphony of vibrant colours and interrelated forms.
The artist noted in his diary on 14 February 1939:
Observe nature, and work on the canvas, indicating the colours: the climate of the work transcends all else. For Bonnard, art was the result of a deeply personal experience, a perpetual dialogue in harmony with nature.
For more background you can read an essay written by Jörg Zutter, Assistant Director International Art
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The Pierre Bonnard works on this page are reproduced with the permission of|
ADAGP, Paris and VISCOPY Ltd, Sydney 2003.