Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

Personnages dans la rue

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Personnages dans la rue
signed 'Bonnard' (lower right)
oil on paper laid down on board
9½ x 10 in. (24 x 25.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1894
André Metthey, Meudon.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1938. E. Martin, Paris.
André Weill, Paris.
M. Mouradian, Paris.
The Hon. James Smith, United Kingdom.
Private collection, London, by 1966, and thence by descent.
J. & H. Dauberville, Bonnard: catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1888-1905, vol. I, Paris, 1965, no. 52 (illustrated p. 120).
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans - Van Beuningen, Bonnard, March - May 1953, no. 6.
London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947, January - March 1966, no. 15 (illustrated p. 81).
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Lot Essay

Perfectly capturing the vibrant bustle of a Paris street, Personnages dans la rue, painted circa 1894, is filled with the life of the city. There is a raw energy that Bonnard has translated into the dark and swirling oils, perfectly conveying the bustle of the busy metropolis. This depiction of the energy of life on the street is the perfect encapsulation of the enchantment that the modern, cosmopolitan existence held over the Nabis. This is the Paris of the flâneurs - during this time, these young men wandered the streets of the city, apparently aimlessly, watching life go by and soaking up the sights, sounds and experiences that it threw up at them. This was a Paris of fashionable drifters, and amongst them one imagines Bonnard. Baudelaire's description of the flâneur in his work The Painter of Modern Life seems equally applicable to the artist of Personnages dans la rue:

'The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite' (Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, translated by J. Mayne, New York, 1964, p. 9).

This walking of the streets influenced the subject matter of Bonnard's works. The scene in Personnages dans la rue has the appearance of being a mere moment, something quotidian that Bonnard has decided to record in his art, lending the trivial a miniature apotheosis. Informed by the ability of photography to freeze a moment in time, Bonnard has selected a deliberately informal composition in order to emphasise the appearance of spontaneity, heightening the sense that this scene is fresh not only in the mind of the artist, but also in that of the viewer.

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