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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Pierre Bonnard – Les Nabis

Pierre Bonnard - Les Nabis

Women with a Dog by Pierre Bonnard

“Women with a Dog” by Pierre Bonnard shows his sister and cousin playing with the family dog in a garden, with three figures behind them. Bonnard compressed the space and simplified the forms, especially the women’s clothing.

Japanese prints inspired the checked blouse, and he experimented with outlines shaped in pencil and ink, occasionally scratching them into the paint. These decorative styles were pursued by the Le Nabis group of young painters, with whom Bonnard work with until 1900.

Les Nabis

Les Nabis was a group of young French artists active in Paris from 1888 until 1900, who played a crucial part in the transition from impressionism to abstract art and the other early movements of modernism. They believed that a work of art was not a depiction of nature, but a synthesis of metaphors and symbols created by the artist.

The Nabis took their name from the Arabic word “nabi”, or prophet, and the similar word in Hebrew, “nebiim”. The term was coined in 1888 to reflect the way these painters aimed to revitalise painting, as prophets of modern art, and the way the ancient prophets had rejuvenated their cultures.

Women with a Dog

  • Title:               Women with a Dog
  • Artist:              Pierre Bonnard
  • Year:               1891
  • Medium:         Oil and ink on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 40.6 cm (15.9 ″); Width: 32.4 cm (12.7 ″)
  • Museum:        Clark Art Institute

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'Dancers' by Pierre Bonnard

Dancers by Pierre Bonnard

Dancers by Pierre Bonnard depicts a high-angle view on a ballet with a dream-like quality. The dancers fill the stage in lines, with each group executing a different dance step. The focus, the colours and the cloud-like quality of the ballerina’s tulle give the impression that the figures are floating above the stage.

Rather than observe and reproduce the world around him, Bonnard sought to instil each picture with “a beauty outside nature.” Bonnard also collaborated with the Russian and Swedish Ballet to design décors as well as a poster. Thus Bonnard may have had the opportunity to observe a ballet from a bird’s eye view.

Bonnard wrote, “Our generation always was searching for connections between art and life.” Bonnard was interested in integrating his art into accessible forms, such as posters, journal covers and illustrations, and engravings in books. At the beginning of his career, Bonnard designed trendy posters for a French champagne firm, which won him wide public attention. He later produced many sets of engravings illustrating the works of the avant-garde authors of his time.

Dancers by Pierre Bonnard

  • Title:                 Dancers by Pierre Bonnard
  • Artist:               Pierre Bonnard
  • Year:                 1896
  • Medium:           oil on cardboard
  • Dimensions:     28 x 36 cm.
  • Museum:          Musée d’Orsay

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Pierre Bonnard

  • Artist:                Pierre Bonnard
  • Born:                1867, Fontenay-aux-Roses, Hauts-de-Seine, France
  • Died:                1947 (aged 79), La Route de Serra Capeou, Le Cannet, French Riviera, France
  • Nationality:       French
  • Movement:       Post-Impressionism, Nabis, Intimism
  • Notable works:

Famous French Artist You Should Know

Pierre Bonnard Quotes

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A painting that is well composed is half-finished.

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One always talks of surrendering to nature. There is also such a thing as surrendering to the picture.

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Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly.

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You cannot possibly invent painting all by yourself.

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The important thing is to remember what most impressed you and to put it on canvas as fast as possible.

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I should like to present myself to the young painters of the year 2000 with the wings of a butterfly.

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Colour does not add a pleasant quality to design – it reinforces it.

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I am just beginning to understand what it is to paint. A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, and one in which to practice his art.

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Reflections

  • “I am just beginning to understand what it is to paint. A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, and one in which to practice his art.” – Pierre Bonnard

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“The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.”
– Pierre Bonnard

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Photo Credit: Pierre Bonnard [Public domain]

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