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bonnard par ostierPierre Bonnard (1867-1947) is without a doubt one of the most important French painters of the first half of the 20th century.

The personality of Bonnard was fashioned by the end of the impressionist period and the Nabi movement of which he was one of the leaders. He later freed himself from the influence of all artistic movements and conventions to develop a very personal style. His sensitive vision of the world then predominates: an enchanting, vibrant and luminous nature in opposition with reality. Although bearing an appearance of quiet simplicity, his work is complex, full of nuances and seemingly timeless.

Pierre Bonnard was born at Fontenay-aux-Roses on the 3rd of October 1867. From a very early age Bonnard showed a great interest in drawing and colour. While he was studying law, following his father's wishes, Bonnard dreamt more and more of dedicating his life exclusively to painting. He therefore entered the Académie Julian and met Maurice Denis, Paul Ranson, Henri-Gabriel Ibels and Edouard Vuillard whom he felt closest to. Bonnard found happiness amongst his fellow art students.

He was nonetheless sworn in as a lawyer in November 1889. But to escape from a career in law, he produced a mountain of paintings to be exhibited at the March 1891 Salon des Indépendants. Bonnard's masterstroke was his France Champagne poster, ordered by the company of the same name. "People everywhere are asking for my poster", wrote Bonnard to his mother on the 21st of May 1891. Félix Fénéon, future editor-in-chief of La Revue Blanche wrote: "It is the first print to have burst joyfully upon the walls of Paris since Daumier.... It inaugurated a renewal of lithography art - the art Toulouse-Lautrec would develop to the degree of refinement and mastery that we know today."

The next five years saw the creation of a series of famous nabi or even impressionist "japonard" paintings, such as Le peignoir (1892), of decorative works, lithographs and book illustrations -Marie by Peter Nansen, Parallèlement by Paul Verlaine. During this time, Pierre Bonnard painted indoor scenes based on his family life, his immediate environment.

He then went through a dark period, during which he painted interiors or nocturnal street scenes constructed with browns and blacks, with only a lamp or a face illuminating the painting. The First World War saw him filled with doubt. This crisis worsened as he became the victim of the intellectual climate created by the cubism movement and risked turning to the past and simply going back to the impressionist style.

"I've gone back to school. I wanted to forget everything I knew, I'm trying to learn what I don't know. I am starting again from the basis, the a.b.c., and I distrust myself and everything I was so passionate about and this colour that you are wild about... "
In 1896, he decided to change his course - "I suddenly understood what I was looking for and how I might try to obtain it" - and focus on a new method of composition.

As from 1900, Bonnard travelled throughout France – Trouville, Arcachon, le Vernonnet where he bought "Ma Roulotte" (My Caravan) in 1912 –, but also abroad, with his friend Vuillard. During each of his stays he rented a house with a garden, favouring the surroundings, luxuriant vegetation and the view. Each house inspired several paintings: in Arcachon – La salle à manger sur le jardin (the dining room overlooking the garden), 1930 (painted in Villa Castellamare), in Trouville – Nature morte devant la fenêtre (Still-life in front of the window), 1937, in Vernonnet, Grande terrasse à Vernon (Large terrace in Vernon), 1918. His paintings began to acquire greater depth, brightening subtly. His horizon broadened, his work grew.