Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

Nu à la toilette

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Nu à la toilette
indistinctly signed (lower right)
oil on board
39 3/8 x 27 3/4 in. (100 x 70.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1908
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (no. 19077).
Katia Granoff, Paris.
Acquired by the family of the present owners in July 1953.
R. Huyghe, La peinture française. Les contemporains, Paris, 1949 (illustrated pl. 11).
B. Dorival, 'Bonnard, Matisse, Utrillo', in Biennale di Venezia, no. 1, July 1950, p. 18 (illustrated).
H. Rumpel, Bonnard, Bern, 1952 (illustrated pl. 34).
G. Bazin, Histoire de l'art de la préhistoire à nos jours, Paris, 1953, no. 579, p. 408 (illustrated).
J. & H. Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. II, 1906-1919, Paris, 1973, no. 489, p. 110 (illustrated).
Lyon, Musée de Lyon, Les Grands courants de la peinture contemporaine: de Manet à nos jours, 1949, no. 10, pl. 9.
Venice, La Biennale di Venezia, XXV. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, June - October 1950.
Antwerp, Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, L'Art Contemporain, May - June 1955.
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, L'École de Paris dans les collections belges, July - October 1959, no. 14.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Anna Povejsilova
Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

Dating from 1908, Nu à la toilette addresses a theme that would fascinate Pierre Bonnard for the rest of his career. Capturing a scene of domestic intimacy, the picture depicts a woman about to bathe. While the floral wallpaper, the carpet and the mousseline of the drapes create a vivid, textural effect across the canvas, the straight vertical line of the curtain, the round edge of the basin and the rectangular top of the washstand introduce a subtle geometry into the picture. Framed by this elaborate space, the woman’s gently curved figure is enhanced in its sensual, sinuous form.

Bonnard’s nudes, like those of Edgar Degas, aimed at depicting intimate moments of the domestic life of the time. Sensuous and voyeuristic, Nu à la toilette evokes the comforting, homely interior of a contemporary house and a daily, familiar activity. Indeed, many of Bonnard’s interior scenes were directly inspired by the space of the artist’s various houses and the model in many of his nudes was his wife, Marthe Boursin. While the heightened domesticity of the scene and the voyeuristic dimension introduce a certain idea of ‘nakedness’, the carefully arranged poses of the model and the contemplative nature of the image elevate the naked body to the absolute aspiration of a classical nude.

Works such as Nu à la toilette indeed voiced Bonnard’s profound fascination for the restrained balance and rigorous canon of the classical nude. At the beginning of the 1900s, Bonnard had started to incorporate in his work direct references to the statuary of Classical Antiquity. The first work in which he did so was La sieste, executed in 1900, in which a naked woman languidly lies on a dishevelled bed. Her distinctive prostrate pose paid homage to The Hermaphrodite in the Musée du Louvre. Bonnard had certainly had occasion to admire that classical example, as he was an assiduous visitor to the Louvre: every time he would have lunch with his niece in rues de Saints-Pères, he would first pay a visit to the Louvre, especially to peruse its Antiquity rooms (S. Whitfield, ‘Fragments of an Identical World’, pp. 9-31, in Bonnard, exh. cat., London, 1998, p. 22). Nu à la toilette also seems to take its cues from a classical sculpture in the Louvre: the gently curved torso of the model’s pose is reminiscent of the Aphrodite of Cnidus fragment (350 BC). Recalling the delicate perfection of that eminent artistic precedent, Bonnard went further to redefine the pose in contemporary terms, introducing the harmony of the classical nude into the modern life of turn of the century Paris.

Bonnard’s interest for Classical Antiquities may have inspired the artist to search for a more sculptural quality in his nudes. In Nu à la toilette, the figure’s stance – vertical, yet subtly articulated in space – is reminiscent of that of a sculpture to be experienced in the round. This may have also been the result of Bonnard’s direct experimentation with sculpture at the time: in 1906, two years before the execution of Nu à la toilette, the artist had tried his hand at a series of sculpted nudes. Although short-lived, this experience may have informed Bonnard’s subsequent exploration of the nude in painting, imparting onto the subject a three-dimensional emphasis. Exploring a theme that would flourish in Bonnard’s late career, Nu à la toilette is an example of the intimate, domestic dimension the artist was able to confer to the rich tradition of the artistic nude.

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