Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory
“I should like to arrive in front of the young painters of the year 2000 on the wings of a butterfly,” Bonnard wrote in 1946, months before his death. And so he has at-
Born 1867, Bonnard was, with Henri Matisse, one of the greatest colourists of the early 20th century. He preferred to work from memory, imaginatively capturing the spirit of a moment and expressing it through his unique handling of colour and innovative sense of composition.
The exhibition has exhibited his works from 1912- 1947 all Oil on Canvas.
She stands nude before a mirror drying herself, staring at her reflection. We stare at her, glibly unaware of our intrusion. Situated outside of the frame, we penetrate her adulterated world.
Sensuous images of everyday life dominate: there were nudes bathing; coffee drinkers gazing out of windows; lovers glancing furtively at one another. But what really intrigues is their unusual composition. Framed from awkward points of view and unexpected angles, these pictures shift perspective, and encourage you to look anew. As stated painted from memory in Bonnard’s studio, these scenes of mundane domesticity represent moments lost in time.
It presents Garden landscapes and intimate domestic scenes which capture moments in time – where someone has just left the room, a meal has just finished, a moment lost in the view from the window, and amazing portraiture of bathing women and his lifelong partner/ wife Marthe dominating most of his canvases. They hum with sexuality with melancholy and almost strobe with colour, colour, colour, in mauves, yellows, oranges and blues, writhing with greens and ochres. Some works incorporating geometric abstraction dilutes with Flat planes of interacting colours.
Some of the planes are so pink, some of the hills so green, that they feel totally unreal and that’s what makes it more interesting. Its like surprising myself when I realize a new colour. A new place is discovered with each canvas in the domestic settings/ homes he has lived in across different locations. The second wave that hits you: the wave of memory and nostalgia. When he paints she had died through photographs, seemingly evident that he’s trying to bring her somehow back to life. He didn't paint scenery because it was pretty, he painted it as a timestamp of memory, as a document of time’s passing
This exhibition encourages me to stand still, to allow time to freeze around in the gallery, and to step into a moment in the past, preserved before me as it must have appeared before him – first in memory, later in paint, and now almost a century old.
These are paintings based on observation yet conjured from memory. These hits my eyes with colour but reveal themselves slowly.