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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
IMAGE BARCODE: 23671027 Beatrice Leval in her study copyright 05 Daniel Aubry, NYC PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF FERNAND and BEATRICE LEVAL Fernand Leval was a young Swiss executive working in Paris for the international grain trading firm Louis Dreyfus & Cie. when he was sent to New York around 1912. After the entry of the United States into the Second World War, the firm was reorganized as Leval & Co., which it remained until 1956. In 1933, he married his wife of thirty years, native New Yorker Beatrice Reiter. Fernand and Beatrice Leval were a charming and well-known international couple who frequently traveled to Europe to visit family, friends and galleries throughout Paris. They were passionate buyers of fine art, with an intuitive and informed taste, and a decisive approach. Their first early Impressionist acquisition was Eugène Boudin's L'Estuaire à marée basse, on which they put a down-payment at Galerie Charpentier in 1939. Before they could return to pay the balance, the German Army occupied Paris. After the war in 1945, when the Levals joined one of the first groups of American civilians to enter liberated France to bring aid and reunite with their loved ones, they returned to the gallery and completed their purchase. At the same time, they also acquired Renoir's Paysage de Provence (see lot 201, in Christie's, New York, 5 May 2005 Day Sale). The following year they returned to Galerie Charpentier to acquire what became their favorite painting, Vuillard's La Table, la fin du déjeuner chez Madame Vuillard (see lot 10), which fueled an abiding passion for Impressionist and Modern Art. Christie's is honored to offer the following (lots 8-14) from the Collection of Fernand and Beatrice Leval, as well as works in the 5 May Impressionist and Modern Day Sale (lots 201-209) and 5 May Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Sale (lot 103).
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

Corbeille de fruits

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Corbeille de fruits
signed 'Bonnard' (lower center)
gouache and pencil on paper laid down on board
14 3/8 x 14¾ in (36.4 x 37.5 cm.)
A.P. Rosenberg & Co., Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 29 October 1947.

Lot Essay

In view of the brilliance of color and freshness of execution that characterizes Bonnard's gouaches, it is surprising to find that the artist worked only infrequently in this medium. Bonnard was an avid and spontaneous draughtsman, to which his many small, quickly drawn sketches attest, and his gouaches possess similar qualities. In his oil paintings, however, he worked more much slowly and proceeded incrementally--he was well-known for constantly retouching them, and is even reported to have once had a museum guard distracted so that he could retouch an exhibited painting on the sly. Quick-drying water-based gouache does not lend itself to a such lengthy consideration, but when the mood was on him, Bonnard worked adeptly and with great success in this medium, and the results, rare in number, call special attention to themselves.

The present gouache proceeded from a drawing that Bonnard sketched in his daily diary on the facing pages for 1-4 November 1933 (fig. 1). The artist kept diaries from 1925 to 1946. The entries occasionally recorded his thoughts, but more frequently include small sketches, shopping lists of artist's supplies, and on every day from 1925 to about six months following the death of Marthe in January 1942, a brief notation concerning the weather. In the entries for 3-4 November, he simply wrote "fine" and "cold." The drawing of a wicker basket with fruit on these pages is unusually finished for his diary sketches, and the artist translated it closely into gouache to yield the present painting. During this time Bonnard was experimenting in his still-life compositions with the direction of the light as it strikes the objects, and here the light appears to have come from dual sources. The stronger light has cast a dark shadow around the immediate periphery of the basket, while the weaker source has created secondary shadow to the sides and foreground, which the artist has rendered unexpectedly in white gouache, creating more the effect of an aura than a shadow.

The drawing was probably done in the dining room of the artist's small villa 'Le Bosquet' in the town of Le Cannet near Cannes, which Bonnard purchased in 1926. Using the diary sketch and his memory of the light and colors, he would have painted the gouache in his studio on the floor above. This high-rimmed basket appears in another drawing from around this time (see Bonnard Drawings, exh. cat., The American Federation of Arts, New York, 1972, no. 79). It is similar, and possibly identical, to a basket used in several major still-life paintings from the mid-1930s and thereafter (Dauberville, nos. 1534, 1539, 1547 and 1589), and in another gouache done in 1935 (see The South Bank Centre, London, exh, cat., Bonnard at Le Bosquet, 1994, no. 24).

(fig. 1) Bonnard's diary pages, 1-4 November 1933. The estate of the artist. Barcode 23671058

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