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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

Femme à l'alcôve

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Femme à l'alcôve
signed 'Bonnard' (upper left)
oil on board
31¾ x 21¼ in. (80.8 x 54 cm.)
Painted circa 1904
Félix Fénéon, Paris; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4 December 1941, lot 35.
Private collection, Paris.
Acquired by the father of the present owner in the early 1970s.
A. Fage, Annuaire général des ventes publiques en France, 1ere année, 1941-1942, Paris, 1942, no. 414.
J. & H. Dauberville, Bonnard, catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. I, 1888-1905, Paris, 1992, no. 308 (illustrated p. 284).
Lyon, Galerie des Archers, Bonnard, Vuillard, Roussel, Modigliani, March 1928, no. 4.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Art français moderne, April - May 1929, no. 429.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Paris Schilders, February - April 1939, no. 4.
Salon des Indépendants, Paris, 1947, no. 503.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Bonnard, 1947, no. 25.
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Painted circa 1904, Femme à l'alcôve is filled with the intimisme that was so distinctive in Pierre Bonnard's works. This picture was painted only a few years after the end of Bonnard's involvement with the Nabis, the self-proclaimed prophets of painting who had been inspired by Gauguin's example and who had become such a force within the art world and in the posters and affiches of Paris over the previous decade. Femme à l'alcôve has been painted with a newly-liberated sense of brushwork, yet retains many of the hallmarks of Bonnard's earlier works: the composition of the picture itself, with the bars of the framing motif to the right and the left, deliberately breaking down the barrier between the depicted world and the objecthood of the painting itself. Meanwhile, this seemingly snapshot-like insight into Bonnard's own private world retains some of the heady atmosphere of his Nabi interiors, although the colourism that has come to the fore shows a new freedom. The model appears to be Marthe, the young model whom Bonnard had met in 1893 and who had swiftly become his most significant Muse and later his wife. This picture, then, can be seen as a celebration both of his life with Marthe and of his love for her.

Femme à l'alcôve was owned by Félix Fénéon and featured in several lifetime exhibitions. Fénéon was a prominent force in the art world of Paris at the end of the Nineteenth and beginning of the Twentieth Centuries. Although he had been a civil servant, he was also an anarchist and served, from 1896, as editor of La Revue Blanche founded by the Natanson brothers. Bonnard had met Fénéon in the early 1890s, and it is a tribute to the relationship between them that he later became the artist's representative and dealer at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.

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