Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Property from the Estate of Dr. George S. Heyer, Jr.
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

La marchande des Quatre-Saisons

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
La marchande des Quatre-Saisons
stamped with signature 'Bonnard' (Lugt 3886; lower left)
oil on canvas
21 ¾ x 24 ½ in. (55 x 62.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1903
Private collection, France (by descent from the artist).
Wildenstein & Co. Ltd., London (acquired from the above, by 1967).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, January 1975.
A. Vaillant, Bonnard, ou le bonheur de voir, Neuchâtel, 1965, p. 43 (illustrated in color; dated 1899).
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1940-1947 et supplément 1887-1939, Paris, 1974, vol. IV, p. 212, no. 01837 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard, January-March 1966, p. 39, no. 42 (illustrated, p. 83; dated circa 1899).
Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art and Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, Bonnard, March-June 1968, no. 17 (illustrated, pl. 40; dated 1899).
San Antonio Museum of Art, Five Hundred Years of French Art, April-August 1995, p. 74 (illustrated in color, fig. 69; dated 1904).

Lot Essay

Capturing a quintessential scene from everyday life on the streets of Paris, La marchande des Quatre-Saisons eloquently illustrates Bonnard’s deeply held fascination with the experience of life in the city, a subject which occupied his paintings repeatedly during the opening years of the 20th century. People bustle along the length of the thoroughfare, going about their daily business, while carts filled with mounds of fresh produce line the edge of the street. Regular customers huddle around this make-shift market, eagerly searching for the best produce on offer, no doubt chatting with one another and the vendors that have congregated along the road to hawk their wares. In the middle distance, a horse-drawn omnibus is just visible as it trundles on to the next stop, its towering profile dwarfing the humans that appear alongside it. Offering a snapshot into the everyday routines and lively goings-on of Parisian life, the composition is shaped by Bonnard’s own personal experiences of the city, where he had lived for the majority of his life.
During this period Bonnard was living on the rue Douai in the 9ème arrondissement, a street away from the Moulin Rouge and the vibrant night life of the Pigalle. Captivated by the constant bustle of people that flowed along the streets, the buzz of the modern cityscape and the serendipitous moments that often resulted from the most innocuous of actions, he painted numerous views of the boulevards that surrounded his home. In many ways, Bonnard saw himself as a modern-day flâneur, an heir to the traditions which had proven essential to the shaping of the Impressionist aesthetic. Passionately embracing this role, he would embark on daily strolls through the elegant boulevards of the city, often before breakfast, absorbing the myriad scenes and colorful play of life that filled the city’s streets. In paintings such as La marchande des Quatre-Saisons, Bonnard captures the fleeting, ephemeral experiences he absorbed during these walks, successfully translating on to his canvases the momentary perceptions that imprinted themselves on his memory. It was this aspect of Bonnard’s style which led Gustave Geffroy to state that “no one is quicker than Bonnard to seize the look of our Parisian streets, the silhouettes of a passer-by and the patch of colour which stands out in the Metropolitan mist. His pencil is never still, quick and supple as a monkey, it seizes on all the momentary phenomena of the street, even the most fugitive glances are caught and set down” (quoted in D. Sutton, Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1966, p. 16).
Bonnard’s interest in the Impressionists had begun to manifest itself towards the end of the 1890s, replacing the spatial simplifications of Paul Gauguin which had so strongly informed the extreme flatness of his Nabi works. He began to look to the example of Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Gustave Caillebotte, for a new direction in his art, a move which allowed him to develop a new sense of depth, color and immediacy in his painting. As he explained: “When we discovered Impressionism…it came as a new enthusiasm, a sense of revelation and liberation. Impressionism brought us freedom” (quoted in T. Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1998, p. 65). This enthusiasm for his Impressionist forebears had an important impact on Bonnard’s technique, brightening his color palette considerably and encouraging a new interest in evocative lighting effects. Similarly, his brushstrokes gained a new sense of freedom and energy, their bold forms creating a richly textured surface that seems to flicker and move under our gaze. In La marchande des Quatre-Saisons, the buildings in the distance, bathed in golden sunlight, are a delicately woven mosaic of independent strokes of color, horizontal and vertical stripes which overlap and converge to create a complex sense of three-dimensionality. By physically inserting himself into these environments, becoming an active participant in this vibrant play of life, Bonnard captured a nuanced, intensely personal view of Paris at the dawn of the 20th century.

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