'No one better captures the look of the street, the coloured patch seen through the Parisian mist, the passing silhouettes, a young girl's frail grace. A searching hand moving with simian pliancy seizes the passing gesture, the evanescent faces of the street, born and vanished on the instant. It is the poetry of life that is gone, a remembrance of things, of animals, of human beings'. Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) (quoted in: Rediscovered Printmakers of the 19th Century, Merrill Chase Gallery, Chicago, 1978).
Quelques Aspects de la vie de Paris is regarded as Bonnard’s tour de force in printmaking. Commissioned by Ambroise Vollard in 1895, the suite was displayed for the first time in Vollard’s gallery at No. 6 Rue Lafitte in March 1899, along with other new lithographic commissions, including Edouard Vuillard’s Paysages et intérieurs (see lot 45) and Maurice Denis’s Amour (see lot 46). Eschewing the popular taste at the time for views of famous Parisian landmarks, Bonnard chose to depict a more personal experience of city; the view from his studio window in Montmartre, or the commonplace sights of urban life. The only identifiable sights are incidental, the Moulin de la Galette, just visible in the middle distance of the title-page (Bouvet 58), and the Arc de Triomphe (B. 69), at the far end of the avenue du Bois de Boulogne. A formative precedent for Bonnard was Hiroshige’s famous series of Ukiyo-e woodcuts One Hundred Famous Views of Edo; especially the use of the elevated vantage point, which Bonnard found well suited to the depiction of Paris’s wide boulevards, and the masterful evocation of the effects of weather. Taking his cue from Hiroshige, Bonnard’s series of lithographs wonderfully displays the life of the city and its passing seasons; bustling streets with people, dogs, carriages, bicycles, top hats and parasols, in bright sunshine, mist, or the moment before a storm.
Only four of the prints appear to have been systematically signed and numbered (B. 61, 63, 68 and 70) and in many cases the numbering within the albums is not consistent, as is the case in the present example. Complete series of Quelques Aspects de la vie de Paris are not unobtainable, however, this set is perhaps one of the finest to have appeared in recent years. We are not aware of any other sets which have been offered at auction with the original batik printed boards.