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Andr� Ostier, Pierre Bonnard, 1941, silver gelatin photograph (Detail)
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Pierre BONNARD | Interior with a Woman in a Wicker Chair [Intérieur clair ou Intérieur avec une femme dans un fauteuil d'osier]
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Pierre BONNARD
France 1867 – 1947
Interior with a Woman in a Wicker Chair
[Intérieur clair ou Intérieur avec une femme dans un fauteuil d'osier]
1920
oil on canvas
72.0 (h) x 51.0 (w) cm
National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm
Answer the following questions:
  1. List the vertical, horizontal and curved lines in the composition.
  2. What changes occur as your eyes move up the painting from bottom to top? Are things closer at the bottom or at the top?
    Are things darker or lighter at the bottom or at the top? Why?
  3. Where is the woman in relation to the light?
    What does this tell you about her mood?

This painting is an excellent example of Bonnard's technique of using the horizontals and verticals of walls, doors and windows to structure a composition. And despite its strong organisation around a central vertical axis, this is a classic instance of an overlapping series of planes being used to establish depth so that, looking from the bottom to the top, the canvas is transformed into looking in and then out.

The woman in the chair overlaps the room divider behind her, which is in front of the table. Behind the table is the window frame, and beyond that what appears to be an outside awning leads the eye into the distance.

The paint representing the woman’s bare arm resting on the edge of the wicker chair can begin to look quite puzzling if we gaze at it for a while. Instead of bare skin it can become just a patch of paint, and then perhaps a piece of material. It really is meant to be her arm, isn’t it?

In a similar way the sections of carpet painted in between the light blue tablecloth and legs of the table and chair can begin to take on a life of their own instead of merely filling up the spaces between the main objects of the table and chair.

Right at the rear another kind of visual puzzle awaits us. The paint of the two areas of very pale blue in the middle section of the open doors appears to run down below the lower edges. How do we interpret the resulting shapes? To complicate matters further, the white section to the left can be seen as attached to the window, or standing at an angle just outside, or perhaps flat on a wall at some distance.

Article authored by the NGA Education department
Introduction | Gallery | Literature | Chronology | Glossary | Education Kit
The Pierre Bonnard works on this page are reproduced with the permission of
ADAGP, Paris and VISCOPY Ltd, Sydney 2003.