Pierre Bonnard - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Adored by Matisse, yet famously disparaged by Picasso for being 'a potpourri of indecision', the paintings of Pierre Bonnard rely on a slow organicism, in which colours reveal themselves in gradation, extracted purely from memory, stroke by meticulous stroke.i With the same eye brought by Theocritus and Virgil to the daily triumphs and struggles of their shepherds, Bonnard juxtaposes elements of naturalism, lyricism and comedy in his paintings, gracing his subjects with a poetic devotion both loving and critical. His entire oeuvre is swept in a hazy glow, characterised by a sense of momentariness that celebrates the quiet intimacy of domestic life, as shown in Nature Morte, Fruits.


    Born in a small town southwest of Paris in 1867, Bonnard formed Les Nabis with Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier and Edouard Vuillard, a group of artists influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Art Nouveau and Post‐Impressionists such as Gauguin and Toulouse‐ Lautrec. Concerned with the non‐realistic aspects of art and prioritising its decorative function, Nabis artists emphasised the reduction of the third dimension to theatre flats, composition and negative space.



    Pierre Bonnard, Dining Room on the Garden (Grande salle à manger sur le jardin), 1934‐35
    Collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


    Less a revolutionary than a painter devoted to the medium itself, Bonnard saw the prisms of colour not as a scientific instrument of precision, as they were for Monet, but as an aesthetic device of personal expression. The dedicated warmth of his tones and muted appreciation of the everyday respond to the privilege of existence itself, conveying the spirituality and blissful radiance of his inner world. Bonnard’s landscapes adopt an almost random composition, with fluid structures emerging unplanned though shocking in their unity of colour, producing an effect both un‐possessive and intimate as Bonnard revels in the fragile beauty of fleeting impression. It is not pleasure which is celebrated, but its effervescence and inevitable disappearance, resulting in an undercurrent of certain melancholy beneath the surface of Bonnard’s sunburnt paintings.


    Colours vibrate so intensely they are as tangible as line and form themselves, if not more dominant. Bonnard’s paintings sing as his yellows and blues and reds undulate like music, with patterned melodies and swaying harmonies. At once the viewer is engulfed by an all‐ encompassing rapture of colour. The extraordinary visual pleasure aroused by his paintings is enough to earn him the accusation of being a hedonist. However, in their panache of execution, deftness of composition, and investigation into sensory perception, Bonnard’s work transports us to a realm both transcendent and rooted in the here‐and‐now.



    Detail of the present lot


    With fruit baskets and other domestic flotsam placed in front of windows looking out to fields and meadows, or mirrors reflecting figures like paintings within paintings, Bonnard united still life, landscape and portraiture with the singular aim of preservation. Through numerous revisions and elaborations, Bonnard’s art of immediate impression, of the mental image and staccato urge of expression, was underpinned by a deep sense of sophistication. As John Elderfield said, 'It does seem to evoke a sense of transitoriness and uncertainty in the visual environment… as if Bonnard offers two descriptions of the same thing in one painting… You come away with a sense that the world is somehow less than certain'i .


    The work of Bonnard has been shown in major exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London; the MoMA, New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His paintings form part of the permanent collections of the Guggenheim, New York; the Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others.



    i Dita Amory, 'Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947): The Late Interiors', The Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 2010, online

    ii Anna Hammond and John Elderfield, 'Pierre Bonnard: An Interview with John Elderfield', MoMA, vol. 1, no. 3, 1998, pp. 10–14, online

    • Provenance

      Estate of the Artist
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Royal Academy of Arts, Pierre Bonnard, January - March 1966, no. 242 (dated as 1935)
      Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet, Pierre Bonnard, March - April 1966, no. 31 (illustrated)
      São Paulo, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Exposição Pierre Bonnard, 14 March - 14 April 1972, no. 29 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Jean and Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1965-1974, no. 1617, p. 51 (illustrated)


Nature morte, fruits (Still Life with Fruits)

signed 'Bonnard' lower left
oil on canvas
31.5 x 40.5 cm. (12 3/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
Painted circa 1942.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

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Danielle So
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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021