Cote d'Azur. Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard is a brilliant colorist

After eating, 1925, Pierre Bonnard
After eating, 1925

Pierre Bonnard was a famous French artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. and talented graphics. Pierre Bonnard remained in the history of painting the greatest colorist of the twentieth century and one of the key figures of the Post-Impressionist era. He painted landscapes, still lifes, animals, urban scenes, nude paintings and portraits. In his work, colors usually prevailed over the depicted subject.

Breakfast table, 1936. Pierre Bonnard
Breakfast table, 1936


Pierre Bonnard was born in the suburbs of Paris Fontaine-aux-Roses, in the family of a high-ranking official. The young man’s father dreamed that his son would follow in his footsteps, and Pierre entered the Sorbonne at the Faculty of Law. In parallel, he studied at the Parisian Academy of Julian, where he met Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Paul Ranson.

In 1888, the gifted young man was admitted to the School of Fine Arts. There, the aspiring artist discovered the work of Degas (Edgar Degas), Cézanne (Paul Cézanne), Gauguin (Paul Gauguin), met Ker-Xavier Roussel and Jean-Édouard Vuillard. These two will become his friends for the rest of their lives.

Cote d'Azur. Pierre Bonnard
Cote d’Azur

At the same time, in 1888, Bonnard and his comrades from the Academy joined the “Nabis” – an informal group that united post-impressionists and symbolists. Because of his enthusiasm for engravings of the Land of the Rising Sun, the Nabids nicknamed Pierre “Japanese Nabis”.

Fame came after the release of a poster for the company “France-Champagne”. Pasted on the streets of the capital in March 1891, he delighted Toulouse-Lautrec and, fortunately, convinced the artist’s family that art can also make money.

Pierre Bonnard. Dining room with a window to the garden, before 1933
Dining room with a window to the garden, before 1933

In 1893 Pierre Bonnard met the flower girl Martha De Meligny.

Love inspired him to create masterpieces in the nude genre, touching and delicate. Marta became his model, muse, and 32 years later – and his wife. True, the long-awaited wedding was overshadowed by the suicide of the artist’s former lover, Rene Monchati.

Pierre Bonnard pays attention to the decorative arts: he works on scenery for the theater, furniture sketches, lithographs. In 1894 he created the legendary poster for La Revue Blanche magazine. And in 1895, a personal exhibition took place at the Paul Durand-Ruel gallery.

Pierre Bonnard. Earthly Paradise, 1916-20
Earthly Paradise, 1916-20

At the beginning of the 20th century, when artistic styles arose and disappeared at an insane speed, the genius stubbornly searched for his own personal path. He wrote slowly and carefully, reminiscent of Vermeer. Pierre Bonnard loved traveling. He traveled all over Europe, visited Algeria and Tunisia. The craving for wandering was explained by unquenchable creative curiosity. In 1909, the master lived for a long time in Saint-Tropez – the Mecca of Fauvist and Post-Impressionist painters.

During the First World War, the painter focused on nudity and portraits

In 1916 he completed a series of large compositions. In 1925, during another trip, Pierre Bonnard buys a house in Cannes. He exhibits regularly, and art dealers are eager to get hold of his work. The name of the artist thunders all over the world.

The outbreak of the Second World War forced Pierre and Martha to leave Paris and go to the south of France. During the occupation, the master made a bold act, refusing to paint a portrait of Marshal Pétain (Philippe Pétain), the leader of the French collaborators.

Nude in the Bathtub and a Little Dog, 1941
Nude in the Bathtub and a Little Dog, 1941

In 1945, the altarpiece “St. Francis of Sale, visiting the sick” was completed. Bonnard gave the face of the saint the features of his friend Vuillard, who died in 1940. “The one who sings is not always happy” – said Pierre Bonnard, and his paintings blazed with gold amber … His last work – “Almond tree in bloom” – he finished a week before his death on January 23, 1947.

The creative life of a genius is described in the novel “The Sea” by John Banville (William John Banville), which won the 2005 Booker Prize.

Panoramic view of Le Cannet, 1941
Panoramic view of Le Cannet, 1941
The most famous paintings by Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard’s paintings are based not so much on traditional pictorial techniques as on fantastic colors, poetic allusions and “visual wit”. Among his best works are:

  1. “Exercises” (1890) – a painting created in the Art Nouveau style – a parody of the battle genre.
  2. “Woman and Dog” (1891) – The plaid pattern of the blouse is inspired by Japanese ornaments.
  3. “White Cat” (1894) – the flat muzzle of the animal resembles the face of a Japanese. Disproportionately long legs make the cat incredibly cute and comic.
  4. “Siesta” (1900) – the picture literally breathes sensual bliss.
  5. “Dining room at the dacha” (1913) – the influence of Cubism is felt. The interior of the room is connected to the outside world through an open door and window.
  6. “Bowl of Fruit on the Table” (c. 1934) – the contrast of warm colors and dark shadows and a slightly distorted perspective reflect the author’s active search for new means of expression.
Woman with parrot
Woman with parrot
Workshop of the artist and mimosa, 1939
Workshop of the artist and mimosa, 1939
Young women in the garden, 1923, 1945
Young women in the garden, 1923, 1945