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    Sale 2046

    Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale

    6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 135

    Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

    Le jardin sous la neige, soleil couchant

    Price Realised  


    Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
    Le jardin sous la neige, soleil couchant
    stamped with signature 'Bonnard' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    23¾ x 23 in. (60.3 x 58.4 cm.)
    Painted circa 1910

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    Like his Nabi colleagues of the 1890s, Bonnard sought inspiration in the day-to-day activities of Parisian bourgeois life. Often these scenes were played out in the confines of crowded apartments, theaters or cafés, with somber illumination and fugitive viewpoints. No art movement before the Nabi, including the Impressionists with their outdoor credo, had explored the private space of the modern city-dweller with such searching obsession.

    By contrast, Bonnard's art from the turn of the century increasingly avoided interior, Parisian subjects in favor of more broadly composed, rural motifs, often still taking an indoor setting but now with a more luminous palette and without much of the cheek-by-jowl claustrophobia which had marked earlier works. This move was perhaps inspired by his companion, Marthe, who had begun to reject Bonnard's busy social milieu and felt herself drawn to greater seclusion. As a result, each year he would rent a summer house in the valley of the Seine to the north of Paris, drawing inspiration from the landscape around him. Eventually this led to Bonnard's purchase in 1912 of Ma Roulotte, his celebrated 'Gypsy Caravan.' The landscape in the present work, with the foreground lawn and the implication of the ground falling away beyond the trees, suggests the site of Ma Roulotte, set on an escarpment above the flood plain of the Seine.

    An aspect of Bonnard's art that grew in importance after 1900 was his Impressionist inheritance and its influence is very evident in the present work. In a departure from his earlier Nabi preference for flat pattern, unbroken fields of color and compositions freed from atmospheric effects, the present work makes transient light and modulated color the subject itself. Bonnard's exploration of the colored nuances of a winter afternoon sees the rose red glow of a setting sun, its warm palette of refracted light flooding the vault of the sky, balanced by a shallow carpet of snow. The neutral tone of the snow, in turn, is laced with gentle echoes of the heat of the sky, as a soft purplish-blue color pulses throughout. However, the artist has not totally abandoned his planar construction of the 1890s. The screen of tall trees, extending beyond the upper edge of the canvas and dramatically silhouetted against the roseate sky, marks the boundry between foreground and background. The varied greens of the shrubbery and coniferous trees reinforce the margins of the picture field, further establishing the space of the foreground while emphasizing the brightness of the snow and complementing the reds of the sky.

    "I looked at the Impressionists," said the artist Karel Appel, "well as Bonnard, a great deal. What influenced me most of all with Bonnard was the atmosphere, the colorific effect of his work. The brushwork is very important, as is the mixture of colors. Let's say that for me, there is the color of Bonnard and the movement of Van Gogh. When I painted landscapes, I mixed colors as he did. I didn't keep these paintings but I made a lot of them at the time. I had seen Bonnard's work in museums, and I also had reproductions. I grew up with all these paintings. And when I wanted to rediscover the atmosphere of the Impressionists, Bonnard helped me a lot" (quoted in Bonnard, The Work of Art Suspending Time, exh. cat., Musée de l'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2006, p. 271).


    Estate of the artist.
    Wildenstein et Cie., Paris.
    Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, circa 1972.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the upper 6¼ in. (15.9 cm.) of the work is not visible in the catalogue illustration.

    Pre-Lot Text



    R. Cogniat, Bonnard, Paris, 1968. p. 204, no. 615 (illustrated).
    J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1968, vol. II, p. 204, no. 615 (illustrated).
    The Australian Women's Weekly, 26 May 1971 (illustrated).
    Manchete, Rio de Janeiro, 6 May 1972, p. 83, no. 1046 (illustrated).


    Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia; Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia; Canberra, Albert Hall; Sydney, Australia Museum and Johannesburg Art Gallery, Pierre Bonnard, May-January 1972, no. 6 (illustrated).
    São Paulo, Museu de Arte and Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna, Pierre Bonnard, March-April 1972, no. 7 (illustrated on the cover and fig. 7).
    Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, June-September 1972, no. 7 (illustrated).