Pierre Bonnard - Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I New York Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | Phillips
  • “The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world—the picture—which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but look, both around him and inside him.”
    —Pierre Bonnard


    Stunningly realized in delicate accents of rich blues, warm pinks and pale yellows, Pierre Bonnard’s 1930 Autoportrait represents one of the definitive self-portraits created by the artist throughout his career, and a masterwork of his mature period. Although the artist turned to his own likeness at various points throughout his life, Autoportrait marks a decisive shift in this practice, the first of a small series of works that would occupy the artist for the next fifteen years and across which he charted with unflinching honesty the passage of time through and on the body. With the majority of these works now held in some of the world’s most prestigious private and institutional collections worldwide, the presentation of this work represents the first time that a late self-portrait of this significance has come to auction since the 1990s.


    Completely fresh to market and widely exhibited over the years, Autoportrait remained in the family collection of Bonnard’s nephew, Charles Terrasse until it was acquired by the Triton Collection Foundation in 2003, and has been included in the artist’s most important touring retrospectives of recent decades, including Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory which opened at Tate Modern, London, in 2019; the 2015 Pierre Bonnard: Peindre L’Arcadie which traveled from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to Madrid and San Francisco; and Bonnard, the 1998 collaboration between the Tate and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The work presents with a disarming emotional impact and stands as one of the most sensitive and deeply affecting artist self-portraits of the period.


    Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Autoportrait de Chardin à son chevalet, 1775-1779. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY 

    Widely regarded as one of the supreme colorists of the 20th century, Bonnard understood that color could be harnessed as an emotional as well as structural element in his paintings. His reworking of passages in paint approximates the essential ephemerality of mood and memory, and the restless equivocations of the self.i Nowhere is this more profoundly explored than in the artist’s self-portraits, especially those created towards the end of his life as he recorded his shifting responses to his own ageing body and its storehouse of memoires.  


    Bonnard painted his first self-portrait in 1889; pince-nez perched on the bridge of his nose and wing collar neatly arranged, the young artist looks directly out at us, hesitating for a moment and seemingly caught between a desire to announce himself and trepidation at such an exposure. In this early self-portrait, as with the others that would follow, Bonnard is not so much presenting himself to us as he is staging an act of self-searching, a distinction more overtly stated in the later, more concentrated series of works to which this 1930 Autoportrait belongs.


    Pierre Bonnard, Autoportraits

  • Although Bonnard had turned to himself as the subject of paintings and drawings intermittently throughout his career, this quiet introspection intensified during the 1930s as he advanced in years and fell increasingly into the gently domestic rhythms of life at “Le Bosquet” in Le Cannet. Situated near the coast on the Côte d’Azur, the property was surrounded by dense, luscious vegetation and bathed in Mediterranean light, a constant source of inspiration for the artist who absorbed these elements and transformed them into some of his most luminous and chromatically vibrant compositions. While this is more immediately obvious in the glimpses of rich foliage and warm light seen beyond the frame of his more typically Intimiste interiors, or in his dazzling portraits of his wife Marthe bathing, Autoportrait similarly draws on the reflective quietude of life in Le Cannet, its soft diffusion of light and sensitively realized color charging the work with a profound emotional resonance.


    Slightly stooped, with a heavy patterned shawl wrapped protectively around his shoulders, the artist’s slender frame is exaggerated by the awkward twist of his head as he turns out towards us here, exemplifying early critic Claude Roger-Marx’s astute assessment of Bonnard’s artistic project as one which “catches fleeting poses, steals unconscious gestures, crystallizes the most transient expressions.”ii Light bouncing off his spectacles, his expression is difficult to read; as if caught off-guard by his own reflection in the mirrored glass, he seems to grip the shawl more tightly around himself in a defensive gesture, his knotted eyebrows adding a touching poignancy to this confrontation with the body’s advancing frailty. The use of watercolor and gouache here is deeply significant in this respect too, the artist having started working with these materials on the advice of Dr. Arthur Hahnloser during a period spent in his clinic recovering from ill health in the same year. Although an altogether quieter, more contemplative image, the raised fist here anticipates the dynamic, pugilistic stance taken up by the artist in certain subsequent works from this series, where Bonnard more explicitly “wages battle against himself and makes the painting the place where his own existential struggle is exposed.”iii


    Pierre Bonnard, Le Boxeur (portrait de l’artiste), 1931. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY 

    Bonnard’s treatment of space here speaks to this too, the bathroom that had served as the setting for so many paintings of Marthe at her toilette here somehow smaller and more confined, his sophisticated color contrasts, alongside the juxtaposition of shorter, more textured brushstrokes with transparent washes of watercolor and gouache complicating the spatial logic of the composition. As David Sylvester noted in relation to his paintings, instead of relating his forms to the vertical and horizontal lines at the limits of the paper’s edge here, Bonnard introduces “at least one emphatic vertical line and at least one emphatic horizontal line meeting at right angles.” Controlling the composition from the center outwards in this way, these structural elements “form an armature around which the picture is held,” a framing mechanism that amplifies the expressive immediacy of his drawn line and intensifies the existential focus of the work.iv


    Edvard Munch, The Night Wanderer, 1923-1924. Munch Museum, Oslo. Image: Munchmuseet, Oslo

    Although these mature self-portraits are often read as meditations on the fragility of the human body, similar to Edvard Munch’s anxiously self-searching late self-portraits, Autoportrait is more nuanced in its effects and intentions. As the artist’s great-nephew Antoine Terrasse has highlighted, this 1930 work is a direct response and homage to Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Autoportrait de Chardin à son chevalet, inspired by Bonnard’s visit to the Chardin exhibition mounted at the Théâtre Pigalle in Paris in the October of 1929. Turning to a new medium in the last decade of his life, Chardin also turned his gaze more directly on himself, creating a sequence of famous pastel self-portraits in which he affirmed his identity as an artist above all else.


    In a poetic echo of his very first self-portrait where a somewhat hesitant young Bonnard crosses his palette and brushes to his chest in a shy statement of his artistic intentions, in aligning himself so closely to Chardin’s self-portraits here, Autoportrait does not simply dramatize the act of self-recognition involved in the production of such an image but stages the more complex and shifting perception of the self as an artist. As curator John Elderfield put it, by reframing the space of the mirror as coterminous with the picture’s edge in these late works, Bonnard places himself simultaneously in front and within this image, “placed in front of the canvas-mirror, looking at it, [he] sees only a virtual image of himself ‘inside.’”v Characterized, famously, as a “painter of happiness,” these late self-portraits introduce a note of subtle nuance and human complexity to the painter who looks back at the viewer.



    i Pablo Picasso, quoted in Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2019, p. 204.

    ii John Elderfield, “Seeing Bonnard,” in Bonnard, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p. 33.

    iii Nicholas-Henry Zmelty, “Le Boxeur,” in Bonnard: Painting Arcadia, exh. cat., Musée d’Orsay, Paris, p. 24.

    iv David Sylvester, Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, p. 206.

    v Elderfield, ibid., p. 44.  

    • Description

      Please see main sale page for guarantee notice https://www.phillips.com/auctions/auction/NY011123

    • Provenance

      Michel Terrasse, Paris (acquired directly from the artist)
      Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris (acquired from the above)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Dallas Museum of Art, Bonnard, February 23–November 20, 1984, no. 37, pp. 122-123 (illustrated on the cover; illustrated, p. 123; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Zurich, Kunsthaus; Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Pierre Bonnard, December 14, 1984–July 14, 1985, no. 124, pp. 246-247 (illustrated, p. 247; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Bordeaux, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Hommage à Bonnard, May 10–August 25, 1986, no. 80, pp. 150-151 (illustrated, p. 150)
      Milan, Palazzo Reale, Pierre Bonnard, October 28, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 32, pp. 97, 204 (illustrated, p. 97; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même (Autoritratto))
      Humlebäck, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Pierre Bonnard, September 11, 1992–January 10, 1993, no. 138, pp. 96, 79 (illustrated, p. 79)
      Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Pierre Bonnard. Das Glück zu Malen, January 23–April 12, 1993, no. 45, pp. 163, 185 (illustrated, p. 163)
      Münich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Bonnard, January 28–April 24, 1994, no. 116, p. 238 (illustrated, n.p.; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      London, Hayward Gallery; Newcastle, Laing Art Gallery, Bonnard at Le Bosquet, June 23–October 30, 1994, no. 9, pp. 57, 127 (illustrated, p. 57)
      Paris, Galerie Schmit, Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947, May 3–July 12, 1995, no. 41, n.p. (illustrated)
      Toulouse, Fondation Bemberg, Bonnard Retrouvé (1867-1947), May–October 1997, pp. 30-31, 34 (illustrated, p. 30)
      London, Tate Gallery; New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Bonnard, February 12–October 13, 1998, no. 101, pp. 249, 269 (illustrated, p. 249)
      Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Bonnard, June 11–November 14, 1999, no. 70, pp. 176-177 (illustrated, p. 177)
      Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, Pierre Bonnard, May 31–October 9, 2000, no. 1, pp. 18, 98 (illustrated, p. 18)
      Madrid, Sala Juan Gris, Centro Cultural del Conde Duque, Una mirada sobre Pierre Bonnard, January 15–March 4, 2001, no. 65, pp. 76, 102 (illustrated, p. 76)
      Lisbon, Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva, Pierre Bonnard, July 11–September 30, 2001, pp. 82-83 (illustrated, p. 83)
      Paris, Galerie Schmit, Oeuvres sur Papier: Instants choisis des 19e et 20e siècle, February 14–April 12, 2002, no. 1
      Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Denver Art Museum, Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late, September 22, 2002–May 25, 2003, no. 134, pp. 2, 242 (illustrated, p. 242; detail illustrated, p. 2)
      Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Pierre Bonnard, the work of art, suspending time, February 2–May 7, 2006, no. 5, pp. 40-41, 302 (illustrated, p. 40)
      Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, Matisse e Bonnard. Viva la pittura!, October 6, 2006–February 4, 2007, no. 217, p. 475 (illustrated)
      Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Raum. Orte der Kunst, February 23–April 22, 2007, pp. 212, 372 (illustrated, p. 212; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Le Cannet, L’espace Bonnard, Bonnard-Matisse: la Méditerranée, July 2–September 16, 2007, pp. 8, 86-89
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Têtes Fleuries: 19e en 20e Eeuwse portretkunst uit de Triton Foundation, July 17, 2007–April 27, 2008, p. 21
      Sakura, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art; Hayama, The Museum of Modern Art, Matisse et Bonnard: Lumière de la Méditerranée, March 15–July 27, 2008, no. 121, pp. 189, 243 (illustrated, p. 189; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Wuppertal, Von Der Heydt-Museum, Bonnard: Magier der Farbe, September 14, 2010–January 30, 2011, pp. 103, 280 (illustrated)
      Giverny, Musée des Impressionnismes, Bonnard et Normandie, April 1–July 3, 2011, no. 42, pp. 84-85, 146 (illustrated, p. 85)
      Le Cannet, Musée Bonnard, Bonnard et Le Cannet. Dans la Lumière de la Méditerranée, June 26–September 25, 2011, no. 46, pp. 107, 154 (illustrated, p. 107)
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Parijs Stad van de moderne kunst 1900-1960, October 15, 2011–January 29, 2012, pp. 126-127 (illustrated, p. 127; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Avant-Gardes 1870 to the Present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation, October 7, 2012–January 20, 2013, pp. 18, 366-367, 539 (illustrated pp. 18, 367; illustrated on the cover)
      Paris, Musée d'Orsay; Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Peindre L’Arcadie, March 17, 2015–May 15, 2016, no. 6, pl. 13, pp. 22-23, 292 (illustrated, p. 23; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, Matisse-Bonnard: Long Live Painting!, September 13, 2017–January 14, 2018, no. 2, pp. 2, 231 (illustrated, p. 2)
      London, Tate Modern; Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek; Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, The CC Land Exhibition. Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, January 23, 2019–January 12, 2020, pp. 148, 222 (illustrated, p. 148)

    • Literature

      Georges Besson, Bonnard, Paris, 1934, n.p. (illustrated on the cover)
      Charles Terrasse, “Pierre Bonnard,” Le Point. Portraits d’Artistes, Paris, 1937, p. 93 (illustrated; titled Pierre Bonnard par lui-même)
      “Pierre Bonnard,” Les Publications Techniques et Artistiques, Paris, 1945 (illustrated on the title page)
      Guy Amoureux, L’Univers de Bonnard, Paris, 1985, p. 139 (illustrated)
      Michel Terrasse, Bonnard et Le Cannet, Paris, 1987, p. 117 (illustrated)
      Antoine Terrasse, Bonnard, Paris, 1988, pp. 285, 315 (illustrated, p. 285; titled Portrait de l'artiste par lui-même)
      Michel Terrasse, Bonnard: du dessin au tableau, Paris, 1996, p. 232 (illustrated)
      Ludovic Janvier, Bientôt le soleil: Pierre Bonnard, Paris, 1998, p. 48 (illustrated)
      Timothy Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1998, no. 138, p. 171 (illustrated)
      Antoine Terrasse, Bonnard: Shimmering Color, New York, 2000, pp. 96, 140 (illustrated, 96)
      Matisse e Bonnard: Viva la pittura!, exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, 2006, no. 217, p. 475 (illustrated)
      Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, fig. 41, pp. 30-31 (detail illustrated, p. 30)
      “Bonnard et Normandie,” Connaissance des Arts, special issue, Paris, 2011, p. 27 (illustrated)
      Petite promenade au Cannet avec Bonnard, exh. cat., Musée Bonnard, Paris, 2011, p. 4 (illustrated)




signed and dated "Bonnard 1930" lower right
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper
25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (65.1 x 50.2 cm)
Executed in 1930.

The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Guy-Patrice Dauberville and Floriane Dauberville and will be included and reproduced in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné des aquarelles, gouaches, pastels, crayons de couleurs et lavis de Pierre Bonnard being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Floriane Dauberville.

This work has been requested for inclusion in the artist’s forthcoming exhibition Amitiés, Bonnard-Matisse pour les 60 ans de la Fondation Maeght organized by the Maeght Foundation, Saint Paul de Vence, France, to be held from June 29–October 6, 2024.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $2,238,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1206

Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I

New York Auction 14 November 2023