Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
4 More
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)

Renoncules au vase bleu

PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
Renoncules au vase bleu
signed 'Bonnard' (lower center)
oil on canvas
22 7/8 x 19 3/8 in. (58 x 49.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1925
J. Bloch.
Anon. sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, 10 June 1963, lot 10.
Ernst Beyeler, Basel.
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1965).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 31 May 1978.
J. Bouret, Bonnard, séductions, Lausanne, 1967 (illustrated on the back cover; titled Vase de pavots).
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1973, vol. III, p. 255, no. 1311 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Jean-Claude & Jacques Bellier, Bonnard peintures, November-December 1960, p. 14, no. 18.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard, January-March 1966, p. 59, no. 188.
Tokyo, Museum of Western Art and Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art, Bonnard, March-June 1968, no. 59 (illustrated, pl. 115).
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Perth, Western Australian Art Gallery, Pierre Bonnard, May-October 1971, no. 18 (illustrated).
Johannesburg Art Gallery, Pierre Bonnard, December 1971-January 1972, no. 18 (illustrated; dated circa 1925-1930).
São Paulo, Museu de Arte, Pierre Bonnard, March 1972, no. 18 (illustrated; dated circa 1925-1930).
Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, June-September 1972, p. 26, no. 18 (dated circa 1925-1930).
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Lot Essay

In 1915, Pierre Bonnard sent himself “back to school ... to forget all I know,” as he told his nephew, Charles Terasse. “I am trying to learn what I do not know. I am restarting my studies from the beginning ... and I am on guard against myself, against everything that used to thrill me so much, against the color that bewilders you…” (quoted in J. Rewald, Bonnard, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1948, p. 48). However, his delight in vibrant pigment could not be squashed, and in the second half of the 1920’s a new style, more sensuous in color and complex in composition, began to emerge in his painting. Filled with sumptuous brushstrokes and deep, sonorous tones, Renoncules au vase bleu is a rich example of the growing sophistication of Bonnard’s pictorial style at this time. Focusing on a plethora of vividly colored blossoms and rich greenery as they sit in a squat vase balanced atop a heavy book, the composition also provides a window into the array of artistic sources, processes and techniques that underpinned Bonnard’s highly personal creative vision.
For Bonnard, the still-life offered a perfect vehicle for his studies in light and color, with bundles of flowers and fruit among his favorite subjects to explore. In the present bouquet, a bright summer arrangement dominated by a group of orange ranunculuses, the flowers have begun to droop, their full, heavy blossoms dipping downwards, over the edge of the ceramic blue vase. According to the artist’s former housekeeper Antoinette Isnard, Bonnard never painted the flowers that she picked for him straight away: “He let the flowers wilt and then he started painting; he said that way they would have more presence” (quoted in S. Whitfield, op. cit., 1998, p. 28). Indeed, Bonnard rarely painted from life, claiming himself too distracted by the object in front of him to create anything true. Instead, he preferred to make pencil sketches and notations in the small diaries he carried with them, which he would use, along with his memory, once in the studio. “Untruth is cutting out a piece of nature and copying it…” the artist proclaimed. “I have all my subjects to hand. I go and look at them. I take notes. Then I go home. And before I start painting I reflect, I dream” (quoted in ibid., p. 9). As such, still-life paintings such as Renoncules au vase bleu can be viewed as contemplative artistic meditations, drawn from the reservoir of Bonnard’s perceptions and impressions gathered during the course of his day to day life, which he then transformed through his own unique painterly vision.
Color, too, was an element to be studied at length, only applied to a composition after deep pondering and contemplation, despite the fact that it was most often the element which initially sparked his urge to paint. As a result, Bonnard would spend extended periods working on his paintings, adding and removing successive layers of pigment, editing the scene with small touches as he enhanced the depth of a tone or worked on a specific highlight, in a seemingly never-ending dance of his paintbrush. Through this process, the artist would often heighten and manipulate his tones in an effort to capture an impression of the original chromatic sensation which had captured his creative imagination. While his preference for vibrant, jewel tones was perhaps influenced in part by the Fauvist style of his close friend Henri Matisse, according to the artist his vivid palette owed a significant debt to his discovery of Japanese woodblock prints. “It was through the contact with these popular images,” he explained, “that I realized that color could express anything, with no need for relief or modelling. It seemed to me that it was possible to translate light, forms, and character using nothing but color, without recourse to values” (quoted in Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late, exh. cat., The Phillips Collection, Washington D. C., 2002, p. 202). The artist had first encountered Japanese graphic arts at dealer Siegfried Bing’s sweeping survey at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890. The exhibition made an enormous impression on Bonnard, who began searching Parisian department stores for examples of Japanese art: “There for the price of one or two pennies, I found crépons and rice papers in astonishing colors. I covered the walls of my room with them” (quoted in ibid., p. 190).
However, by the 1920s Bonnard had begun to move away from such Japanese influences, eschewing flat, decorative planes of color, in favor of more complex, nuanced modulations of tone, rooted in the technique and style of Paul Cézanne. “When one covers a surface with colors,” Bonnard noted, “one should always be able to try any number of new approaches, find a never-ending supply of new combinations of forms and colors which satisfy emotional needs” (quoted in D. Amory, ed., Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 13). As a result, the entire surface of Renoncules au vase bleu is alive with different passages of color interactions, as various chromatic relationships appear to materialize and dissolve at different points across the canvas. It was this aspect of Bonnard’s style which led John Rewald to write: “With the exception of Vuillard, no painter of his generation was to endow his technique with so much sensual delight, so much feeling for the undefinable texture of paint, so much vibration. The sensitivity which guided his brush he infused into every particle of paint placed on the canvas; there is almost never any dryness, any dullness in his execution. His paintings are not merely ‘flat surfaces covered with colors arranged in a certain order’ [as Maurice Denis described the work of the Nabis]; they are covered with colors applied with a delicate voluptuousness that confers to the pigment a life of its own and treats every single stroke like a clear note of a symphony” (J. Rewald, exh. cat., op. cit., 1948, p. 48).

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