Bonnard by Bonnard, Pierre

By Bonnard, Pierre

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Natanson was right when he said that Bonnard’s misanthropy sprang from his innate kindness. But even in his youth Bonnard was probably a more complex personality than he seemed to his friends. His reserve and reticence hid traits which one could hardly suspect. In his self-portrait painted in 1889 (private collection, Paris) we see not a light-minded wit, but a watchful, diffident young man. Young Woman by Lamplight c. 5 x 75 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts, Berne 56 57 The still eyes hide thoughts one does not usually share with others.

On 9 March 1891 he wrote to his mother: “I won’t be able to see my poster on the walls just yet. It will only appear at the end of the month. ” The Little Laundry Girl 1896 Lithograph in 5 colours, 30 x 19 cm 38 39 At about the same time he sent five pictures to the Salon des Indépendants. At the close of 1891 he exhibited his works together with Toulouse-Lautrec, Bernard, Anquetin and Denis at Le Barc de Boutteville’s. When a journalist from Echo de Paris, who interviewed the artists at the exhibition, asked Bonnard to name his favourite painters, he declined to do so.

Three or four years later he began to move away from intricate decorative effects and deliberate complexity towards a greater liberation of colour and a living texture in painting, as well as towards its inner integrity. This was a turning point in his career, but it did not occur suddenly. The Terrasse Family (L’Après-midi bourgeoise) 1900 Oil on canvas, 139 x 212 cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris 60 61 Changes in Bonnard’s painterly manner accumulated gradually, and for this reason it is impossible to draw a dividing line between one period and another.

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