This month, Tate Modern celebrates the work of Pierre Bonnard, founding member of the post-impressionist group Les Nabis
Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory
23 January – 6 May
Words by Ellen Peirson
Pierre Bonnard, a founding member of the post-impressionist group of avant-garde painters Les Nabis, was fascinated with colour to the point of obsession. Idiosyncratic to his core, colour for Bonnard was more than a means to create an impression; colour was the impression itself. Never painting from life, Bonnard would spend hours studying his subject, making sketches and taking notes on the colours.
An ‘Intimist’, he would capture the most personal of moments; ordinary, domestic snapshots in time that, with his perceptive understanding of colour, he was able to create poetry from. Aware of the affecting nature of his work, Bonnard introduced wit where the emotions overpower. The cheer of his joyful colour schemes is only amplified by subtle irony: a hidden figure in the corner of Window Open on the Seine (1911-12) (see above), a barely detectable woman blending into the wallpaper in Dining Room on the Garden (1934- 35), and a cat sitting on a deck chair gazing back at the viewer in Dining Room in the Country (1913).
In the first major exhibition of Pierre Bonnard’s work in the UK since the Tate Gallery’s 1998 show, Tate Modern will concentrate on Bonnard’s work after 1912, when his concern with colour comes to the fore.