Special Saturday Hours, May 20, 11 - 5
Although Pierre Bonnard was born twenty years after Redon, the two artists corresponded, and Bonnard is known to have said: “I have the greatest admiration for Redon…(his work) is the reunion of two opposing qualities which are almost opposites…all of our generation fell under his charm and received his advice.” By 1902, their friendship solidified as Redon produced a portrait lithograph of Bonnard, and Bonnard made a portrait of Redon’s son Ary.
As a member of the Nabi group of painters active in the late-nineteenth century, Bonnard’s early work was heavily influenced by Paul Gauguin and Symbolism with its flat, non-objective color and decorative patterns. Like Redon, Bonnard’s graphic work of this period made bold use of black and white, as seen in his 1893 drawing “O, Ombre” from a proposed children’s book on the alphabet. Both artists avoided the literal. But whereas Redon favored fantastic imagery, Bonnard depicted the everyday, made fantastic through through the lens of his memory.
In the early painting The Little Street or Boulevard des Batignolles Bonnard depicts his future companion Marthe strolling down the pearl-gray boulevards of Paris carrying a baker’s box. A forecast of the future, Bonnard would obsessively paint Marthe - whom he first met on the streets of Paris - for the rest of his life, even after she had passed away.
Later in his career, Bonnard turned increasingly to landscape subjects, from the verdant riverside views near his country house in Vernon to the shimmering ports of Deauville and Trouville where he vacationed in the summer. After 1930, his house in Le Cannet provided endless opportunities to paint the sparkling hills of southern France. These grand panoramas were a counterpoint to the intimate interior scenes of his home, as seen in L’Escalier -the view of Marthe and their dog seen from the top of a staircase.
When Bonnard painted in his studio, it was from memory, and he would often work on more than one painting at a time. For Redon, subject matter was derived from myth and literature, reorganized to portray his emotional story. For both artists at the end of their careers, color became their muse.