Looking at the work of Pierre Bonnard

The Bath 1925 by Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947

‘The Bath’ oil on canvas. source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bonnard-the-bath-n04495

This is a painting of the artist’s wife, Marthe, in the bath. I am looking at Bonnard’s  cropping in this picture. He has cut through the back of her head and the two ends of the bath. I think this gives a slightly claustrophobic feeling to this painting; a feeling of Marthe being almost entombed in the bath.The tiles(?) above the bath also add to the shut in, prison-like feeling. She does not look very happy, it is not an indulgent bath at all….. So cropping can add strongly to the message/feelings of a painting.

before dinner.jpg

‘Before Dinner’, oil on canvas, 1924. source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1975.1.156/

This appears to be painted from a high angle looking down on the table. The strong, white table, which is cropped across the side and also stops at the wall level in the centre of the picture, cutting the work into quarters. A lady is looking at the table; maybe she has just set it out. The other lady has her back to the table and is sitting, her foot and part of the chair has been cropped off and a dog is hiding behind this chair, maybe in anticipation of dinner! The picture makes me feel a little uneasy, as it does seem quite right, as the perspective seems a little off. Both women seem to be waiting and do not seem happy, maybe they have argued? The colours used are warm, although the description on this page says ‘shimmering’ I do not agree, it all seems a little flat and sketchy  to me.


‘The Terrace at Vernonnet’, oil on canvas, 1920-39, Metropolitan Museum of Art  Source: https://paintersonpaintings.com/2014/12/29/susanna-coffey-on-pierre-bonnard/

I love the colours used in this work, but I am not sure quite what the narrative is here. The table is set and someone is coming with a basket of food, whilst 3 figures are viewed in the background, two of them seem to be chatting. What is the face to the right? It looks to me like a face craved out of  a tree stump but I am not sure. The table may also be a large tree stump or is it just the perspective is not correct?

It was suggested that I look at these works and I can see how Bonnard has used unusual angles and cropping and perspective to give a sense of, for instance unease and also intrigue and interest. I need to apply this approach in my own work and try out bold, unusual cropping and to look at what I am painting from a different angle, to add to the story behind my painting.



Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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