Paysage, circa 1921

Paysage, circa 1921
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 21 x 23 3/8 in.
Signed ‘Bonnard’ lower left
Gérard Dupuy, Paris (the artist’s godson)
Huguette Berès, Paris
Lefèvre Gallery (Alex Reid), London (acquired by 1962), sold, Sotheby’s London, April 15, 1970, lot 65
Mrs. Marlow, United Kingdom (acquired at the above sale)
R.O. Peterson, United States, sold, Sotheby’s London, June 27, 1997, lot 33
Janos B. Fenjves, Miami (acquired at the above sale)
Sale: Christie’s New York, May 11, 1995, lot 289
Kunsthandel Borzo, Den Bosch, The Netherlands Private Collection, The Netherlands
Acquired from the above in August 1995
Private collection, Canada, since 2010
Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint 1920-1939, Paris, 1973, vol. 1, no. 4
London, Lefevre Gallery, XIXth and XXth Century French Paintings, 1962, no. 3, illustrated in the catalogue London, Lefevre Gallery, XIXth and XXth Century French Paintings, 1969, no. 2, illustrated in the catalogue

“Somehow he is painting the space that is behind the eyes. It`s as if you are lying in bed trying hard to remember what something looked like. And Bonnard managed to paint that strange state. It is not a photographic space at all. It is more a memory space, but one which is based on reality.”[1]

Peter Doig

Pierre Bonnard was drawn to depicting nature from the very beginning of his career, but it wasn’t until the turn of the century, that landscapes play a dominant role in his oeuvre. Since around 1900, Bonnard liked to escape Paris more and more frequently for the pastoral countryside of the lower Seine valley. In 1911 he decided to acquire a house in Vernonnet, northwest of the capital, and named the small, simple cottage “Ma Roulotte” (“My Caravan”).

Bonnard would find most of his landscape motifs close around the house, which had a wrap-around porch, overlooking the garden and the Seine. His works painted there revel in the luxuriant colours of the surrounding vegetation, blooming meadows, and lush trees. The artists’ nephew Charles Terrasse described the scenery: “… the pale green and golden fields of early summer; the riverbanks lined with poplars, elms, ash trees, and the silvery patches of willows; the majestic river itself, [are] alive with boars, and blue in the sunshine or lead-grey in the rain.[2]

Bonnard’s retreat was only a short distance away from the village of Giverny, where Claude Monet’s resided since 1883 amidst his famous gardens. With Bonnard’s move to Vernonnet both artists started a close friendship and developed sincere admiration for each other’s work. Contrary to Monet’s practice, however, Bonnard never painted outside, en plein air : “I leave it, I go check, I come back, I come back again sometime later, I don’t allow myself to be absorbed  by the object itself, I paint alone in my studio, I do everything in my studio”.[3]

Influenced by Monet’s Impressionism, Bonnard’s Normandy landscapes capture the natural characteristics of the scenery, without being realistic. Rather than being true to nature, his paintings are reflections of colours and atmosphere. In a letter to Matisse, he remarked: “On my morning walks I enjoy defining the different concepts of landscapes, landscape ‘space’, intimate landscape, decorative landscape, etc.. But like a vision, I see different things every day, the sky, objects, everything is constantly changing, so one can drown in it. But that means to be alive. ” [4]

[1] Contemporary artist Peter Doig in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paris, January 2005, cited in: Adrian Searle, Kitty Scott and Catherine Grenier, Peter Doig , London:  Phaidon 2007, p.142

[2] Charles Terrasse, cited in: Pierre Bonnard, Early and Late (, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. and Denver Art Museum, 2003, p.37

[3] Angèle Lamotte,  Le Bouquet de Roses: Propos de Pierre Bonnard receuillis en 1943,  Verve 5, nos.17 and 18 (August 1947), n.p.

[4] Bonnard  in a letter to Matisse, February 1940