The first distinctive period in Bonnet's career came around 1920 when he began to travel extensively in Europe, notable Italy where he stayed on in Florence and painted incessantly. Bonnet's preoccupation with portraits of people during the Italian period is evidenced by the work La Domenica delle Palme, dated 1923. The work was imbued with a unique sense of quiet energy, and Bonnet skillfully contrasted the light, rosy hues on the cheeks of the boys to the confident strokes of black charcoal, attaining an uncanny state of realism in the expressions of his models.
The artist himself has explained his preference for the portraiture. In a letter dated 1926, the artist commented "My work might also be interpreted as an unit, as a single portrayal of a race, It is a story: The story of a peasant-class, preserved in its classical state (in some regions, at least) and part of a people whose background spans the centuries. Still, one of these days that race will have vanished. So considered from this viewpoint these hard facts are not portraits. They are the representatives of a race." (Ruud Spruit, Indonesian Impressions: Oriental Themes in Western Painting, wijk en Aalburg, 1992, p.20).
Indeed Bonnet was very much dedicated to the preservation of the indigenous life style, which he felt, was constantly eroded by Western missionaries and tourism. Thence, the artist devoted most of his works to the faithful records of the people, ensuring that it is 'preserved in its classical state'.