PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)


PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
signed 'Bonnard' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 3/8 x 23 3/4 in. (62.1 x 60.5 cm.)
Painted in 1925
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist in November 1925.
Léon Delaroche, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Private collection, Paris by descent from the above.
Robert & Nadine Schmit, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1998; their sale, Sotheby’s, Paris, 8 December 2021, lot 13.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Roger-Marx, Bonnard, Paris, 1950, no. 12 (illustrated pl. 12; titled ‘Meditation’).
J. & H. Dauberville, Bonnard: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, vol. III, 1920-1939, Paris, 1973, no. 1327, p. 266 (illustrated).
M. Terrasse, Bonnard: du dessin au tableau, Paris, 1996, p. 192 (illustrated; with inverted dimensions).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Bonnard : Œuvres Récentes, November - December 1926, no. 19 (titled ‘Corbeille et figure’).
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947, May - July 1995, no. 37 (illustrated).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

The 1920s saw profound change in both Pierre Bonnard’s personal and professional lives. Following decades of work, his art was finally achieving recognition and his retrospective at the Galerie Druet in Paris opened in 1924. The following year, Bonnard married his long-time companion Marthe de Méligny, the figure in Recueillement, the present work, and one of the artist’s most important subjects.
Marthe de Méligny in the dining room at their home in Vernonnet was a motif which occupied Bonnard that year, and he set several scenes there including La nappe blanche, held in the collection of the Von der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal. These paintings have an enigmatic, dream-like quality in which time seems suspended. Indeed, Recueillement translates to contemplation, an act suggested by de Méligny’s peaceful expression, shaded eyes, and clasped hands. This a private, pensive moment, and one which speaks to Bonnard's approach to painting which was one, Matthew Gale has argued, focused on ‘eliciting rather than imposition’ (M. Gale, ‘Coda: Bonnard’s Time’, in Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2019, p. 60). A light bathes de Méligny in bright warmth. Night has arrived at the Bonnard home.
The intimacy of Recueillement recalls Bonnard's works of the 1890s, and in creating those scenes, he regularly employed the same pictorial elements, such as a table set for a meal. Both the subject matter, the emphasis on patterning, and the decorative use of colour link Recueillement to his work as part of the Nabis. Established in 1889, the Nabis were a group of young artists based in Paris interested in capturing the subjective sensations of the world around them. They made the modern city their subject, painting the rhythms of everyday life, the domestic, and quotidian. Bonnard and his colleague Edouard Vuillard often portrayed family scenes, painting life around the dinner table or sitting room, and the two came to be known as intimistes. Such threads linger in Recueillement, both in the interior setting but also in the absence of pictorial depth and use of bold planes of colour.
Bonnard’s interest in collapsing pictorial space owed much to his interest in Japanese woodcuts known as ukiyo-e, which he as well as other members of the Nabis learned about in the 1880s. He admired the complex treatment of space in which multiple vantage points were often deployed; the use of foreshortening and cropping; and the juxtaposition of empty space with more crowded detail. Changes in visual tendencies, however, were not solely informed by the prevailing Japonisme trend but also by the spread of photography, and Bonnard often used the camera to test framing devices and seek out new ways of representing what is seen. He was concerned with the lived reality of seeing, believing that academic painting, with its dogmatic use of linear perspective, failed to accurately depict the experience of being in the world. In the present work, the tablecloth appears to surge forward, a sensation which traditional perspectival systems would have otherwise eliminated. Instead, background and foreground appear to meld, and depth is merely an illusion. Sight, as Bonnard understood it, is fallible and fluctuating. ‘Vision is mobile,’ he said. ‘And this vision is variable’ (P. Bonnard quoted in R. Burnham, ‘Intelligent Seeing’, in Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of New York, 2009, p. 71).

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