I went to see the current Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Modern this week and it was not as crowded as I had anticipated! Tickets were as usual quite expensive but I felt it was well worth the money though I'll have to be tight-pocketed for a while.
The Tate Modern have given the impression that this exhibition of Bonnard's work is about light and happiness and I must say I felt very different. It is about light and colour of course but I felt that it's also about a man who was rather lonely too and seeking something that was not quite tangible. I found it interesting that he kept returning to his paintings weeks, months and often years later to correct light and colour in them. His life long relationship with Marthe de Meligny who later became his wife seemed so devoted and yet tragic too. I felt that he reflected this in his paintings of her even though some are of her smiling and of their happy home together. His paintings to me had a rather melancholy feel to them.
As a painter myself, I remember studying Bonnard when I was in art school in the 1990's. I was at that time in my career, learning to hone my understanding of colour and light in my own studies of the life model so his work then held great fascination for me. Seeing his work again after all these years, I'm brought back to those discoveries I had during my time studying. I found myself trying to dissect some of his paintings to understand what he was doing. I wish we could have seen what his palette looked like as well as his brushes as that would have told even more of his story as an artist.
I love the small collection of photos that were included in the exhibition. They were like secret glimpses and very voyeuristic.
As an artist who draws and paints from life, I did find it very interesting to see another perspective into how Bonnard worked from memory. For myself, I'm dependent on drawing or painting or sculpting from a source in front of me. When I draw, paint or sculpt without a reference it is just from my imagination and not realistic to what I've been studying but Bonnard would apparently collect linear information in simple sketches beforehand and then work from these and use his memory when in studio. This method has always baffled and yet intrigued me too. It was interesting seeing a studio practice from a different perspective and hopefully this will give me a jolt in my own practice. Experimentation is always good and Bonnard is very inspiring!
The interesting thing for me as a now mid-career artist is that it was when I was young and just starting out that I loved his paintings of the human form and how he captured light so perfectly in the skin. Now I'm drawn to the layering of his paintings of his garden as I feel I can understand more deeply what he was trying to do with colour. His paintings of the human form still hold interest but the gardens are just wow in my eyes! His last painting of the blossoming almond tree outside of his bedroom window was so poignant for me.
Blossoms at the end of a life describing light and colour and devotion seems well suited as the perfect ending to an artists life such as Bonnard.
Wonderful exhibition and I think I will have to return for a second look before it ends. On returning home, I watched a few documentaries about Bonnard and also found a book I'm going to purchase about him on Amazon.
Do go to the exhibit if you haven't already. For artists, young and old, consider collecting a stool and sitting to draw. There were quite a few artists sitting drawing in the exhibition when I was there so next time I've made a note to remember my sketchbook.
I'll add one more of Pierre Bonnard's paintings at the end here as I bought a postcard of this one because it's so lovely! Its called, "Lane at Vernonnet" 1912.
*As always if you enjoyed this post and would like to see more exhibition reviews please stay tuned to this blog every Thursday at 9am UK time for more.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
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