• Nick Pike

Bonnard Art Exhibition at the Tate Modern


'The Colour of Memory' is a really enjoyable exhibition, even though Pierre Bonnard is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some artworks, I think, are truly inspired and soak up the very essence of what painting can achieve on an emotional level, whilst other pieces leave me cold...

All of Bonnard's paintings are from memory - herein lies the dichotomy of my feelings with his artwork. Several of the pieces suffer from the figures' faces being too naive to be appreciated, whereas sometimes Pierre strikes the perfect balance of dreaminess and draughtsmanship.

'Woman at a Table' - Oil on Canvas, 1923

'Woman at a Table' is utterly exquisite with the subject's vibrant dress jumping out of the picture, whilst her face is very dark and mysterious, almost blending in with the background. Bonnard uses the same colours as the dish in front, creating a link of tension between the sparseness on the plate and the woman's unsure expression. With the top of her head cropped, the painting becomes even more claustrophobic and suggests that we as onlookers are very close to her.

'Basket of Bananas' - Oil on canvas, 1926

& 'Nude in the Bath' - Oil on canvas, 1936

Whilst 'The Fauves' such as Matisse were experimenting with raw colour, Bonnard developed a highly individual use of hues which set him apart. He was also masterfully adept at incorporating patterns - 'Nude in the Bath' and 'Basket of Bananas' are very simple but so rich with the attention he gives to tablecloths, tiles, etc. There is no real specific focal point as the whole painting is filled with energy.

'The Studio with Mimosa' - Oil on canvas, 1939-46

I recently watched 'My Happy Family' on Netflix - a great Georgian movie (currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes), where a middle-aged woman leaves her husband and their multi-generational home, setting out to build a new life for herself. The dreamy quality of this film kept bringing my mind back to Bonnard's window paintings - especially 'The Studio with Mimosa'; very memorable...

With thirteen rooms following Bonnard's life and career, this exhibition is well worth a visit. The Pierre Bonnard exhibition continues until 6 May 2019.

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