Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

Jeune femme au chapeau noir

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Jeune femme au chapeau noir
stamped with signature 'Bonnard' (Lugt 3886; upper left)
oil on canvas
23 1/8 x 21 7/8 in. (59 x 55.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1910
Estate of the artist.
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York.
Sydney F. Barlow, Beverly Hills; sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 17 May 1978, lot 45.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
J. and H. Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1974, vol. IV, p. 308, no. 1985 (illustrated).
Los Angeles County Museum, 1974-1975 (on loan).
Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Master Artworks from Private Collections, August-November 2005.

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Vanessa Fusco
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Lot Essay

Bonnard, together with his friend Edouard Vuillard, had been the most secular-minded of the Nabi painters, many of whom pursued religious and spiritual aims in their art. Bonnard and Vuillard took their intimiste subjects from everyday urban and domestic life, content which kept their work lively, freshly observed and current beyond the late 1890s, when the heyday of the Nabi movement had passed. The synthétiste compositions of Paul Gauguin may have been the initial inspiration for the strongly stylized and decorative Nabi aesthetic, but by 1900 the paintings of Bonnard and Vuillard had more in common with the Impressionists, especially Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "When we discovered Impressionism a little later," Bonnard stated, "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). Jeune femme au chapeau noir and other paintings of the first decade of the new century mark the initial phase of Bonnard's efforts to "pick up the research of the Impressionists, and to attempt to take it further" (Bonnard, quoted in ibid.).
Bonnard enjoyed painting with a model in front of him. Here the sitter may have been his companion Marthe de Meligny, whom he met in 1893. They lived out of wedlock for the next several decades, and finally married in 1925. She established and defined the intimate ambience which characterized Bonnard's work from almost the very beginning; her presence became the very center of his life and art. The artist flattered Marthe's "birdlike" appearance by giving her a pertly upturned nose and pleasantly rounded cheeks. This aspect became frozen in time as the years went by, and Bonnard's hired models would often assume this look as well.
During the years before the First World War, large hats were the fashion mainstay for the modern woman as she stepped out into the public eye. Bonnard's emphasis on the great black hat also reflects his admiration for Renoir, who enjoyed creating his own extravagant headwear for his female models (fig. 1). Timothy Hyman has written: "In the early years of the century, something of Renoir's tender touch fed into [Bonnard's] own mark-making, along with a love of French Rococo painting in its most 'feminine' aspect. He learned much from the older artist's insistence that nature needed to be improved upon" (ibid., p. 67).

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