Cover image of the review
Pierre Bonnard, Nu accroupi au tub, 1918, oil on canvas, 85.3 x 74.5 cm. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Gift of Zeïneb and Jean-Pierre Marcie- Rivière, 2016.

Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi

7 Oct 2023
National Gallery of Victoria | NGV International 9 Jun - 8 Oct 2023

He examined the room as you do a doctor’s waiting-room … It was the purest distillation of the commonplace. He had become bewitched by its strangeness.
—Wyndham Lewis, Tarr, 1918.

The popularity of the confessional mode testifies, of course, to the new narcissism … The record of the inner life becomes an unintentional parody of inner life.
—Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism, 1979.

The work of Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) occupies an awkward place in art history. Today, his work is celebrated for its vibrant use of colour, his focus on intimate scenes of domestic life, and his manifest interest in craft and decorative art—interests he shared with Les Nabis, an influential group of young French artists of which he was a leading member. Though he painted until the weeks before his death at age seventy-nine in January 1947, at the time he was largely disregarded by his avant-garde peers. “He’s not really a modern,” Pablo Picasso said to his wife Françoise Gilot, “Bonnard is but a neo-impressionist, a decadent, a dusk, not a dawn.” Mere months after Bonnard’s passing, this critique echoed in the pages of the authoritative periodical Cahiers d’Art where Christian Zervos deemed the artist “weak willed, and insufficiently original.”

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