Sunday, 7 April 2019

Pierre Bonnard - The Colour of Memory

The Tate Modern is currently holding an exhibition of the work of Pierre Bonnard and I headed down there a few weeks ago to check it out. The exhibiton focuses mainly on his mature work where he had developed a highly individual command of colour. He used that colour to paint sensuous images of everyday life. As a textile designer, it was very inspiring to see his use of colour up close and the unconventional use of contrasting hues. One of the best examples of colour use is this scene below which uses a bold purple shade to convey the light on the table top.

Bonnard also painted everyday scenes like the 'Woman at a Table' below, which were snippets of life. The composition is also more unconventional, and more like a snapshot in its set up. The viewpoint makes us feel like we are sharing the meal with the woman, who is up so close that her head is cropped. I love the vibrancy of the red dress and rosiness of the cheeks.

In 'The White Tablecloth' below, the simplicity of the cloth sets off the items that are placed on it and surrounding it. I zoomed in on the richly coloured garment of the woman standing.

Bonnard created many room scenes, which used unconventional angles and viewpoints. I love the use of colour in the painting below which combines rigid angles of the interior (along with a fab yellow patterned wallpaper) with the softness of the landscape through the window.

The painting below, has a still life in the foreground and then you notice the woman standing with her back to us in the background, as if she is just about to leave the room.

Bonnard worked on many nude paintings and liked to use mirrors to challenge the idea of space and time. In the painting below he shows two different angles of the pose - the nude in the foreground and her reflection in the mirror, where the suggestion of an outstretched arm is shown.

In 'The Mantelpiece' below, Bonnard creates a complex visual structure with a stretching woman reflected in the mirror and a painted nude on the wall behind her. The nude stands where the painter would be, but the painter does not appear in the reflection.

The 'Nude Crouching in the Tub' below relates to a specific photograph that Bonnard took. The relaxed pose was captured on film and then recreated in painted form. Bonnard used photography and its spontaneous composition as an influence on his paintings and soon no longer relied on a camera to create these poses.

The warm tones of the painting below appealed to me. The orange of the floor reflects the light of the  late afternoon sun coming through the window.

Bonnard's paintings of the bathing nude introduced a new element to his paintings and showed how different the body looks under water. The painting below is the first of four paintings addressing this theme. In this painting, the nude stretches across the width of the canvas and the composition can be divided into a series of horizontal bands - the tiled wall, the white bath, the immersed body, and the rim and the floor.

This later version of a nude in the bath (below) is much moodier, with a more intense and expressive use of colour. Marthe de Meligny was his lover and model. Her health started deteriorating and she would take baths every day following water treatment for her ailments. Bonnard captures the intimacy and melancholy of their relationship through this painting. I love the use of purples, blue and mustard yellow to create the heaviness of the emotions.

This wonderful exhibition is on at Tate Modern until 6th May 2019.

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