Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947)
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Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947)

Coin de jardin fleuri

Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947)
Coin de jardin fleuri
stamped with signature 'Bonnard' (Lugt 3886; lower left)
oil on canvas
28 x 24 3/4 in. (71 x 63 cm.)
Painted in 1912
The artist's estate.
Acquired from the above in the 1950s, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 February 2014, lot 44.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. & H. Dauberville, Bonnard, catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, vol. II, 1906-1919, Paris, 1973, no. 725, p. 284 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard, January - March 1966, no. 104 (titled 'Le jardin: cactus').
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Pierre Bonnard, 1971, no. 8 (illustrated; titled 'Le jardin, Cactus'); this exhibition later travelled to Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales; and Perth, Western Australian Art Gallery.
Johannesburg, Johannesburgse Kunsmuseum, Pierre Bonnard, December 1971 - January 1972, no. 8, p. 22 (titled 'Le Jardin, Cactus').
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Michelle McMullan, Specialist, Head of Day Sale
Michelle McMullan, Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

'In painting, you will never succeed in rendering reality when it is already perfect. The point is not to paint life, but to bring painting to life' (Bonnard, quoted in A. Terrasse, Bonnard: The Colour of Daily Life, trans. L. Hirsch, London, 2000, p. 107).

A landscape of swirling, verdant green vegetation, Coin de jardin fleuri demonstrates the rich inspiration that Pierre Bonnard found in the South of France. Having first visited the area in 1909, the artist returned there, to Grasse, in the summer of 1912 with his model and companion Marthe and continued to return to paint on numerous occasions throughout his life, staying in different villas and houses along the coast until finally settling permanently in Le Cannet. The scene is bathed in the brilliant light of the Côte d’Azur, which has enlivened the rich colours of the foliage, sea and sky. This light particularly fascinated the artist: he recalled, ‘that southern light during certain hours, which – over great spaces – becomes the principal subject of a sensitive artist’ (P. Bonnard quoted in: J. Rewald, Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat., New York, 1948, p. 56-57).

In 1912, Bonnard was in the midst of an introspective period in which he attempted to reconcile and balance colour with form. After the summer in Grasse he returned north and purchased a modest-two story residence at Veronnet, a hamlet in the Seine valley not far from Giverny, where Monet had lived and worked for nearly thirty years, and the two men became close friends. Unlike his new neighbour, he never resorted to pure abstraction. Jean-Louis Prat notes: ‘Bonnard always developed his own visual language, firmly rooted in reality. He did not, like Monet, virtually do away with the subject itself. He always used forms, without experimenting with abstraction, or even contemplating it’ (J.-L. Prat, ‘Pierre Bonnard or An Enduring Painter’ in exh. cat., Bonnard, Martigny, 1999, p. 19).

Bonnard flooded his canvases with an intense light, making works such as Coin de jardin fleuri a triumph to the expressive power of colour and the luminescence achieved from his study of the effects of sunlight. Coin de jardin fleuri captures a corner of an overgrown garden with is abundant foliage and wild flowers filtering the Mediterranean light before the backdrop of the deep blue of the sky and sea. The influence of Bonnard's close friend Henri Matisse is evident in the tapestry-like juxtaposition of flat and brightly-hued forms. The artist has eschewed a central focus point, rather leaving the eye to gaze across the colour planes with which the composition is put together. "The principal subject is the surface," wrote Bonnard, "which has its colour, its laws over and above those of objects" (quoted in N. Watkins, Bonnard, London, 1994, p. 171).

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