Look Around You
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was a french painter inspired by the rooms in his home, his yard and the people in his life. I can relate to this close-proximity of inspiration – the sense that everything worth painting is within arm’s reach around you. I especially love that his homes were very simple and somewhat plain, but his paintings of those rooms are a kaleidoscope of wild colors.
Up Close, and Far Away
Have you ever seen his paintings in person? Standing close, impressionist influence is there in seemingly random, layered, close-in-value brush-strokes of color. But then, step slowly away from the canvas, and watch the pigments merge into luminous, perfect color that draws you straight into the scene. Bonnard was masterful, and prolific in his almost 60 years of painting. Looking at and reading about his art always makes me want to work harder at this artist’s life.
Bonnard at The Tate
The Tate Museum has curated a show of Bonnard’s work, and the video below is an overview of the exhibit, his process and subjects.
Artist Library Recommendations
I found a small book on Bonnard (this one) in a used book store 20 years ago. At the time, Bonnard’s quirky, not-quite right figures, and splendidly colored interior and exterior roomscapes taught me that you can make beautiful art, even if your drawing skills are not rock-solid. I am still inspired by his use of composition and color to create a beautiful scene, without so much attention to accurately rendered features and perspective. His layered brush strokes in colors that were close in value sing, and they are all the more astounding because he sketched scenes on site, but then painted from memory.
What attracted me was less art itself than the artist’s life and all that it meant for me; the idea of creativity and freedom of expression and action. I had been attracted to painting and drawing for a long time, but it was not an irresistible passion: what I wanted, at all costs, was to escape the monotony of life.~Pierre Bonnard
Bathtubs and Mirrors
Bonnard’s conveyance of windows, doorways and mirrors in rooms, and bathtubs with figures soaking tranquil in opalescent, neutral colors influenced the art I’m drawn to, and those same subjects have meandered into my own work (here and here are examples). I’m not sure if Bonnard gifted this affinity, or I’ve always loved those subjects – as an enthusiastic bath-taker, and New Englander, who spent a childhood watching consecutive winters turn to spring on the budding tree branches outside my bedroom windows? Perhaps it’s some of both.
Which artists have stayed with you the longest? Tastes change as we mature in our creative journey, but some artists will always be great influences on us. Who makes you want to reach farther and work harder on your art?
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
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P.P.S. Have you read the book The Sea by John Banville? The protagonist in the book is an art historian writing about Bonnard, so the details of his research and observations are featured throughout the narrative. I haven’t read it, because it sounds a little sad. If you’ve read it, what did you think?
My work is going well, especially in the direction of understanding. During my morning walks I amuse myself by defining different comce[tions of landscape – landscape as “space”, intimate landscape, decorative landscape, etc. But as for vision, I see things differently every day, the sky, objects, everything changes continually, you can drown in it. But that’s what brings life.
~Pierre Bonnard in a letter to Matisse, 1940