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

Jeunes femmes au bord de la mer

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Jeunes femmes au bord de la mer
stamped with signature 'Bonnard' (Lugt 3886; lower left)
oil on canvas
13 1/8 x 10 ½ in. (33.3 x 27 cm.)
Painted circa 1917
Estate of the artist.
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York.
Schoneman Galleries, Inc., New York (by January 1966).
Elizabeth and Arthur Wachtel, New York; sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 22 October 1980, lot 62.
Acquired at the above sale by John C. Whitehead.
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1974, vol. IV, p. 386, no. 02121 (illustrated).
Achim Moeller Fine Art, ed., Late XIX and Early XX Century French Masters, The John C. Whitehead Collection, A Collection in Progress, New York, 1987, p. 18 (illustrated in color, p. 19).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard, January-March 1966, p. 56, no. 161 (with incorrect cataloguing).
New York, Schoneman Galleries, Inc., From Our Collection, 30 Masterpieces of French Art, November-December 1967, p. 5, no. 1 (illustrated; titled Les demoiselles d’arcachon).
The Montclair Art Museum, Late XIX and Early XX Century French Masters, The John C. Whitehead Collection, April-June 1989, p. 30, no. 3.
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, The Whitehead Collection, Late 19th and 20th Century French Masters, A Collection in Progress, 1997, p. 112, no. 69 (illustrated in color, p. 113).

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

When Bonnard executed the present work towards the end of the First World War, he was already recognized as one of the most talented painters of his generation, his reputation having been fully established through the popularity of his ground-breaking Nabis interiors of the 1890s. Following this early phase, as his style evolved at the start of the twentieth century, it underwent a period of restrained chromaticism in opposition to the strident colorism of the Fauve avant-garde around him, before adopting the heightened palette that marked the latter stages of his career. The present work dates from this moment when rich, saturated hues, often deployed to explore light in nature, start to play an increasing role in his art.
Bonnard’s companion, Marthe de Méligny, whom he met in 1893 and eventually married in 1925, was a source of constant inspiration. It is likely that she served as a model for the present work, as the foremost of the two women: Marthe’s characteristically blunt profile and dark blonde hair tucked under her cloche hat are recognizable. She travelled widely with Bonnard during these years, frequently to the Mediterranean coast and to spa towns for the sake of her fragile health. A closely related painting entitled Jeunes filles et mouettes is in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris (Dauberville, no. 922), where Marthe appears to be the farther of the two figures also set against the sea. The location for the present work may be Antibes, where Bonnard often stayed over the course of the War. The pictorial—and dramatic—possibilities of a shimmering Mediterranean acting as a background was exploited by the artist in several works around this time.

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