Pierre BONNARD | Checked shirt (Portrait of Madame Claude Terrasse at twenty) [Le corsage à carreaux (Portrait de Madame Claude Terrasse à vingt ans)]

Pierre BONNARD
France 1867 – 1947

Checked shirt (Portrait of Madame Claude Terrasse at twenty)
[Le corsage à carreaux (Portrait de Madame Claude Terrasse à vingt ans)]
1892
oil on canvas
canvas 61.0 (h) x 33.0 (w) cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris , Purchased from Charles Terrasse, the sitter's son 1968
© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

In this charming portrait, Pierre Bonnard’s sister, Andrée, sits at the dinner table holding a black and white cat. The figure is constructed using pattern, sinuous lines and rounded shapes. A stray curl falls over Andrée’s forehead as she uses a piece of cutlery in her left hand. A wine glass, fruit and plates form a still life on the table.

Cats are a prominent feature in Bonnard’s paintings. The artist painted a white cat two years later, which you can also see in this exhibition. The depiction of cats had become more frequent in late nineteenth century French art. This phenomenon can be traced to Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting, Olympia where the artist included a black cat. Cats were also becoming an important feature of every French household where once they had been considered a preserve of the upper-classes.

The slim format of this painting, with its focus on pattern, reveals the influence of Japanese prints on the young Bonnard. A large exhibition of Japanese prints was held in Paris in 1890 and included images by the influential artists Hiroshige and Hokusai. Bonnard was twenty when he visited this exhibition.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2009
From audio tour Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and beyond Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay