Occupation: Painting, printmaking, textile design, sets, puppetry
Pierre Bonnard was a French painter and printmaker. He was the member of the influential post-Impressionist art movement, Les Nabis. Pierre Bonnard's artworks have been exhibited at many galleries
Pierre Bonnard's Early Life
Bonnard was born on October 3, 1867, in Fontenay-aux-Roses, Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris. He enrolled to study law at the University of Paris at the insistence of his father but soon began attending art classes at the Académie Julian, a private studio school for students of art.
Pierre Bonnard's Career
Bonnard met Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, and Paul Ransom at the Académie Julian and found in them friends with similar artistic inclinations. Sérusier and Denis formed the avant-garde, post-Impressionist group Les Nabis in 1888, and Bonnard became a member in 1889, the same year he enrolled as a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he met Édouard Vuillard. Vuillard and he became friends and together, they studied and sought inspiration from the works of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. Gauguin’s work, in particular, was extremely influential for the young artists.
The Nabis, named after the Hebrew word for prophet, was a rebellious group of art students who wanted to set new standards in fine art and graphic art in France
. Apart from the Impressionists, they deeply admired decorative art techniques, such as Japanese printmaking.
Bonnard’s first exhibition was in 1891 at the Salon des Indépendants, where he presented five paintings. He found commercial success with his early work, including lithographs such as the France-Champagne poster in 1891 that he designed after winning a competition, and illustrations for books and the art and literary magazine Le Revue Blanche. This is when he decided to give up law and focus entirely on his art. He also designed furniture, theatre interiors, textiles, puppets and painted screens, exploring different media for his creative output. At the same time, he focused on his artistic work, presenting his first solo exhibition at the gallery Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1896. In the 1890s, Bonnard shared studio space with Denis and Vuillard.
Pierre Bonnard's Search for Artistic Expression
Bonnard’s personal search for his expression as an artist continued after the disbandment of the Nabis in 1900. Moving on from his interest in design and motifs thrown up by the city of Paris, his focus began to shift to landscapes, which were further inspired by the time he increasingly spent in the countryside between Normandy and Paris. Bonnard traveled through Europe before the First World War and by 1912, he had bought a villa near Vernon, dividing his time between the Sienne and the South later on in his life.
Bonnard repeatedly painted landscapes, interiors, nudes and still life, infusing his work with rich colors over time. Many of his interiors developed out of scenes from his own homes, for instance, he painted over 60 scenes of dining rooms. He married his model and mistress Marthe de Méligny in 1926, after knowing her for over 30 years. Marthe was a constant presence in his paintings of domestic scenes and continued to be his muse for over 50 years. Bonnard never painted from life, always from memory, and even when they were old, he depicted Marthe as a young woman. Often, he would photograph Marthe, using the images later to create paintings.
Pierre Bonnard's Later Years
Major exhibitions of the artist’s work were held at Kunsthaus Zürich in 1932 and at the gallery Wildenstein in New York in 1934. Another notable exhibition in 1938 exhibited his work along with that of Édouard Vuillard at the Art Institute of Chicago. A retrospective of Bonnard’s work, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, was presented in 1948, posthumously at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, after his death on January 23, 1947.
Pierre Bonnard's Legacy
Pierre Bonnard’s paintings revealed an intense interest in the use of color, as a means to enter a work of art and subject of study. His seemingly simple work reveals layers of complexity when viewed closely. Some of his famous works are “The Bathroom” (1907), “The Breakfast Room” (1931), “Dining Room on the Garden” (1934–35) and “Young Women in the Garden” which he began to paint around 1921–23 and completed in 1945–46. Bonnard died at the age of 79 on January 23, 1947, in Cannes. Art lovers can buy Pierre Bonnard's artworks online
Pierre Bonnard's Major Exhibitions
Gallery Durand-Ruel, Paris
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.