Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)


Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
signed 'Bonnard' (lower right)
oil on canvas
22 ¼ x 14 ¾ in. (56.5 x 37.5 cm.)
Painted in 1946
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Harriet Harris Jonas, New York (acquired from the above, by 1949).
By descent from the above to the late owner.
J. Leymarie, "Présence de Bonnard" in L'Amour de l'Art, 26e année, 1946, no. IX (illustrated in color).
M. Raynal, Peinture moderne, Geneva, 1953, p. 273 (illustrated in color).
A. Terrasse, Bonnard, Geneva, 1964, p. 91 (illustrated in color).
R. Cogniat, Bonnard, New York, 1968, p. 84 (illustrated in color).
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1974, vol. IV, p. 97, no. 1680 (illustrated).
M. Terrasse, Bonnard at Le Cannet, London, 1988, p. 125.
Musée de Nice, Bonnard, 1946.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Bonnard, October-November 1947.
New York, The New School Associates, 19th and 20th Century French Paintings From the Collection of Mrs. H. Harris Jonas, February-March 1949, no. 2 (titled Landscape).
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Pierre Bonnard, March-April 1956, p. 5, no. 23 (illustrated, p. 19).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

“On the dining room table covered in red felt stood baskets with tall handles of plaited osier or raffia–somewhere to put the peonies and mimosa, the oranges, lemons and persimmons gathered, with the figs, from the garden,” recalled Bonnard’s grand-nephew Michel Terrasse, who frequently visited the aging artist at Le Bosquet, his long-time home in the south of France and his most profound and enduring source of inspiration (op. cit., 1988, p. 14). In the present canvas, Bonnard has painted this favorite felt tablecloth as a flat plane of richly variegated vermilion that fills nearly the entire ground, as though Matisse’s Harmonie rouge had met nascent color-field painting, then beginning to develop across the Atlantic. The vertical format of the painting, bold and unexpected in a still-life, heightens the sense of modernist spatial compression. Scintillating, multi-colored light plays across the pale yellow wall of the dining room in a narrow band at the top of the composition, above the horizon line of the tablecloth; an echoing band at the bottom yields a glimpse of the room’s red patterned carpet and terracotta floor tiles.
Centered against and contrasted with this abstract, rectilinear framework is a sensuous bounty of ripe Mediterranean fruits, the spherical forms piled high on an oval platter and awash with intense white light. Bonnard painted this canvas in 1946, very possibly following a trip to Paris in June-July for a major retrospective of his work at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. He had spent the whole of the Second World War in self-imposed isolation at Le Bosquet and was eager, among other peacetime pursuits, to re-visit the Louvre. The exceptionally balanced and classic treatment of this still-life motif, with its stable pyramidal arrangement and velvety chiaroscuro, may reflect his renewed study of Chardin and other old masters.
Most distinctively Bonnard, however, is the rich, hot palette that he employed in this painting, which unifies still-life and ground into a cohesive tapestry of pulsing, transformative color–fiery reds and oranges, heightened by complementary touches of jewel-like turquoise and teal green. “The finest of his late pictures throb with intensity,” Denys Sutton has written. “He secured a magical transformation of the real world so that the interior of his studio or his garden at Le Cannet assume an infectious radiance. His rich orchestration of color records a world which was on the verge of disappearing at the end of his life” (Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1966, p. 24).
In August 1946, the curator and critic Jean Leymarie–a rising star on the Parisian art scene, who had met Bonnard at the Louvre the previous month–traveled to Le Bosquet to visit the painter while on summer sojourn at Cannes. After a luncheon in the lush, overgrown garden, Bonnard invited Leymarie into his studio, where the present canvas caught the young man’s discerning eye. He illustrated it that very fall in an article for L’Amour de l’Art entitled “Présence de Bonnard.” “He knew how to preserve the freshness of that first vision,” Leymarie later recalled, “to offer to the moving eye a texture that is both shimmering and unified. ‘A picture is a sequence of marks which join together and end up forming the object,’ [Bonnard explained,] ‘the fragment over which the eye wanders without a hitch’” (in M. Terrasse, op. cit., 1988, p. 9).

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