Organized by Paris’ Musee D’Orsay, an international exhibition of more than 70 works by French artist, Pierre Bonnard, is making its only U.S. appearance at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor.
Beginning with works painted during his time in Montmartre in the 1890s, the exhibit charts Bonnard’s transformation from a Parisian intellectual and designer of chic decors, through his contemplative period during World War I, into an Expressionist painter of lush landscapes, thoughtful self-portraits and domestic intimacy that continued until his death in 1947. On display in both small formats and large-scale works, Bonnard’s subjects are drawn from his personal life and his contemporary world.
The son of a French bureaucrat, Bonnard (1867-1947) rejected convention and devoted himself to a life of exploration through painting. He was a friend and contemporary of Henri Matisse and both artists shared a vibrant exuberance of color and pattern in their paintings. Inspired by Gauguin, Bonnard was one of a generation of artists whose art followed on from Impressionism. In this exhibit at the Legion of Honor, visitors can view more than 70 paintings and photographs that reveal the artist as a key figure whose artistry bridges impressionism and modernism.
Bonnard adhered throughout his life to an Arcadian sensibility, a world vision centered on his personal life that encompassed his family, his companions, his lovers and the places he lived. Using his brushes, his compositions blend an awareness of the ephemeral joy of life tinged with a sense of mystery. One of his favored themes was the female nude and he often relied on his muse and wife, Marthe. Making photographic memories of everyday family life provided Bonnard with a rich source of material for his paintings. Nude photos of Marthe, taken both indoors while grooming in the bathroom and outdoors in their garden, may likely have provided models in candid poses for several of the nude paintings in the exhibit.
When in 1909 the artist traveled to Saint-Tropez, he became so enthralled by the light and colors of the French Riviera that he returned almost every year, renting villas and subsequently buying a small house perched above Le Cannet.. Although modest. the cottage boasted a panoramic vista of the bay. Bonnard enthusiastically dubbed his new home “Villa du Bosquet. It was here he spent most of his time and in 1911, just two years after his love affair with Saint Tropez began, he completed one of my favorite paintings in the exhibit, the exquisite “View of the Port, Saint-Tropez,” (on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)
Where: Located in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park, the Legion of Honor overlooks oceanfront walking trails with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. A lovely outdoor sculpture garden and cafe on the museum’s grounds makes a fitting finish to a tour of the exhibit. Here, Bonnard would surely have found inspiration while enjoying a cup of tea accompanied perhaps by a slice of quiche Lorraine. Visit the Legion of Honor’s website at www.legionofhonor.famsf.org. 100 34th Ave, San Francisco Phone: 415-750-3600