Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chapter Seven: Pierre Bonnard #1

Grooming Lesson (Pierre Bonnard)


I’ve been a Pierre Bonnard fan from the day I first saw his paintings. For me, many of his pictures are as beautiful as anything Monet did, as original as Picasso and as playful as Matisse.

Of course, Claude Monet is an artist so many more people know and admire. One reason, probably the most important one, is that Monet was a daring pioneer. He, Renoir and Pissarro sacrificed greatly to pursue their visions of what became known, derisively at first, as impressionism.

They are remembered because they revolutionized painting in France and went on to create masterpieces admired around the world.

Pierre Bonnard, on the other hand, was a post-impressionist, a Nabi, like Vuillard, who expanded the borders without causing a war with the establishment, which had already been pushed back by Monet and his cohort. 

Unlike Monet, Bonnard seems never to have suffered many personal setbacks or heartbreaks. A calm, cultured and happy family life made it easier for him to create without hunger pains or personal tragedy. 

Bonnard Bather with Cat / © Deborah Julian
The result is a sixty year history of paintings that are mellow, original, extremely colorful and complex in a way Monet achieved only after finding happiness in the second half of his life. Apart from a brief fling at lawyering, under pressure from his father, Bonnard seems to have been a lifelong, happy painter. 

Among his most beloved paintings are nudes inspired by his wife Marthe’s baths. There are so many, you might thinks she did little else but soak in the tub or prepare to. Maybe because so many of his pictures started out as photographs, there is an immediate naturalism about them, a casualness, even while posing naked. 

For her first cat art inspired by Pierre Bonnard, Deborah selected a painting more quirky than the others. Quirkiness fits well with cats, doesn’t it?

In Bonnard’s picture, Bathers, Marthe is already underwater. You recognize her from her very familiar, shapely legs, which are about all you get since the tub is shoved off to the side. A second bather, still wearing a robe and slippers approaches from the left. 


George decides to give them both a lesson in grooming, settling in the center of the canvas, for a thorough clean up.