Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center

Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard was a passionate, yet not overly sentimental artist whose talent and pioneering spirit were nurtured through training and affiliation with like-minded peers. Considered by some a traditionalist, in reality Bonnard loosened the constraints of conventional painting. One such example was his approach to the process of painting. Rather than working on a stretched and prepared canvas of a standard size, Bonnard painted directly on canvas that had not been stretched, and only when the image was complete did he cut the material. In doing so, a painting was allowed whatever space it demanded and was not confined by predetermined borders.

Bonnard's formal training included studies at the renowned Julian Academy. Although he shared the passion of the Impressionists for the textured application of paint, he did not embrace the “vibrating atmospheres” of their work, and so set upon his own direction. Joining forces with fellow artists Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Paul Ranson, Bonnard helped form the “Nabi Group,” known for their use of flattened space and bold forms typically found in Japanese art. Art historian Hans Jaffe credits Bonnard in particular with “opening doors for art of the future through his ability to weave pigment into the carpet-like flat surface of pure color.”

Throughout his career, Bonnard's favorite model was his beloved wife Mathilde and they shard many happy years together. Upon her death in 1942, Bonnard wrote to his good friend Matisse that painting had become merely “work of consolation.” He led a very solitary existence until his own passing in 1947.

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