PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)

Deux corbeilles de fruits

PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
Deux corbeilles de fruits
signed ‘Bonnard’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 7/8 × 32 in. (60.4 × 81.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1935
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 1935).
Paul Ebstein, Paris (gift from the above, 1935).
Léon Delaroche, Paris (circa 1935).
Private collection, Paris (by descent from the above, 1998).
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie's, New York, 8 November 2006, lot 73 (world auction record for the artist at the time of sale).
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
F. Jourdain, Pierre Bonnard ou Les vertus de la liberté, Geneva, 1947 (illustrated in color).
R. Söderberg, Bonnard, Stockholm, 1949, p. 51 (illustrated).
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1973, vol. III, p. 422, no. 1539 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note that this painting has been requested by The Kimbell Art Museum and The Phillips Collection for their exhibition Bonnard’s Worlds from November 2023-June 2024.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

By the 1930s Pierre Bonnard had long since cemented himself as a key figure in the history of French painting. A founding member of Les Nabis, along with the likes of Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier, and Edouard Vuillard, Bonnard had explored the expressive dimensions of modern painting in the late nineteenth century. Yet, while his fellow Nabiim tended towards the mystic and even cultic, Bonnard came to distinguish his own work as ultimately more human. He opted to capture the rooms he inhabited with a warmth and emotive character only working from personal memory could afford. As Bonnard wrote, “The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world—the picture—which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but looking, both around him and inside him” (quoted in Bonnard, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p. 9). Bonnard’s vividly-colored and masterfully-composed domestic scenes and still lifes, like Deux corbeilles de fruits, circa 1935, would become hallmarks of the artist’s later oeuvre.
The present work reveals Bonnard’s ability to synthesize an array of artistic influences, both contemporary and historic. Here, Bonnard appropriates the dynamic diagonal compositional order, tilting perspective, and imaginative use of color of Paul Gauguin. In a photograph of Bonnard’s studio taken the year before the painter’s death, a postcard of Gauguin’s 1888 masterpiece La vision du sermon (National Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh) is seen tacked to the wall. Gauguin’s striking scene was a favorite of Bonnard’s as a young artist and remained a major influence throughout his career.
Works such as Deux corbeilles de fruits also bear the influence of Paul Cezanne’s dogged interrogation of space through the still-life genre. However, the artist’s Copernican revolution occurred in 1890 when he was struck by the beauty of Japanese woodcut prints in an exhibition organized by Siegfried Bing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. “It was through contact with these popular images,” he explained, “that I realized that color could express anything, with no need for relief or modeling” (quoted in Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late, exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 202).
This expressive potential of color was a lifelong interest. On 16 April 1927, Bonnard scrawled into his notebook, “Proximity of white, lending a luminosity to some bright colored spots” (quoted in Bonnard: The Late Paintings, exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1984, p. 69). Formal musings like these were made manifest in his interior paintings such as the present work. In depicting tablecloths, Bonnard found an inexhaustible subject, allowing him to explore the juxtaposition of white with adjacent, vibrant colors. In Deux corbeilles de fruits, the deep maroon of the table runner takes on an enlivened, almost undulating character when straddled by the white wall and checkered tablecloth bordering it. Bonnard experimented with different reds in additional still lifes to great effect during this period of his work—the thick cardinal stripe in Coin de table of 1935 (Dauberville, no. 1534), held at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, is brightened through the artist’s deft formal strategy.
Bonnard’s formal experimentation would never eclipse the great personal warmth and intimacy of his interior works—in fact, these formal innovations served to bolster the artist’s expression of personal experience and affections, not to detract from them. Dita Amory explains, “In order to paint an object he needed to be familiar with it, to see it sympathetically, or as having its own personality. Once, when asked to consider some charming ensemble as a potential still life, he responded simply, ‘I haven’t lived with that long enough to paint it.’” She concludes that Bonnard’s approach to the still life was “at once humble and heroic” in this regard (Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors, New Haven and London, 2009, p. 26).
Working on multiple canvases simultaneously, Bonnard painted in a curiously meticulous and exploratory manner, repeatedly building up and effacing his progress as he went. Lucy Whelan takes this aspect of his process to be crucial in yielding the contemplative, wistful mood of his paintings. She remarks that Bonnard’s later works, “appear to have grown organically through a gradual accumulation of marks, suggesting a process of laying brushstrokes down and sometimes wiping them away with the rag in his left hand, without prior decision or planning.” She continues, “This is not about spontaneity, or at least not the spontaneity of loose, bravado brushwork of so many of his predecessors. Rather, Bonnard’s paintings seem to be formed from a thousand tiny decisions piled on top of one another” (Pierre Bonnard Beyond Vision, New Haven, 2022, p. 136). Deux corbeilles de fruits encapsulates this process, its fields of built-up color and texture create a sense of flux and profusion. What results is a picture that is simultaneously elusive and wrought with cognitive flavor—a still life full of human life.
Since its creation, Deux corbeilles de fruits has remained largely hidden from public view—passing through a series of private collections, it has never been seen in a public exhibition dedicated to Bonnard’s work. It was purchased almost immediately after its creation by Léon Delaroche of Paris, who acquired a number of the artist’s paintings through the 1930s, spanning the many decades of Bonnard’s oeuvre. While Delaroche also purchased works by Camille Pissarro and Vuillard during these years, he appears to have favored Bonnard’s paintings.

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