Pierre Bonnard

His life, his work

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.

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Le Bosquet

Le BosquetIn 1904 Pierre Bonnard also discovered the Midi during a visit to Saint-Tropez, where his friends Edouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel were staying. He met with Valtat and Signac, who also received Matisse and Derain that same year, both on their way to fauvism. At the invitation of Manguin, he returned there for a longer stay in the summer of 1909, which enabled him to paint several canvases. Until 1914 he kept alternating between Paris, Normandy and the Midi.

In the Midi, Bonnard discovered a light and vegetation unknown to him. The colour of the eucalyptus, olive trees, almond trees and mimosas reveals itself in the Mediterranean light. The painter was immediately touched. He wrote to his mother the following phrase that was to become famous: "I had a thousand and one nights' shot. The sea, the yellow walls, the reflections as colourful as the lights..."

1922 was the year of his encounter with Le Cannet. Completely won over by this haven of peace that answered to both the health requirements of his wife Marthe, and his quest for tranquillity, nature and heights, Bonnard came there to spend every winter in various houses he had rented: "Maison Blanche" (White House), "L'Hirondelle" (The Swallow), "Le Rêve" (The Dream). In 1926 he bought a modest looking house on avenue Victoria, which he christened "Le Bosquet". Bonnard was by then very well known and had the means to buy a much larger and more comfortable house, with an easier access. But it was the quiet tranquillity of the site that captivated him, as well as the view over the Cannes bay and the Esterel massif. He transformed all the house's openings so that nature would be visible from any one point inside the house.

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Le Cannet, it can't be missed...

evidenceThe Cannet landscapes and the light of the Midi were to Bonnard endless sources of inspiration. During the 22 years he spent in Le Cannet, Bonnard painted what all the experts agree are his greatest masterpieces.

Bonnard created over three hundred works of art in Le Cannet, some of them intimate, inspired of his private world. Le Bosquet thus became the subject of many of his compositions. Bonnard painted and re-painted every corner of this pink house: the dining room, the small living room, the very famous bathroom. Some of these world famous paintings form part of his reference work. Nu dans le bain (Naked in the bath), 1936-1938, Nu devant la glace (Naked in front of the mirror), around 1934, La sortie de la baignoire (Getting out of the bath), around 1926-1930.

Another aspect of his work: landscapes. Paysage du Cannet aux toits rouges (Landscape of Cannet and its red rooftops), Ciel d'orage sur Cannes (Stormy skies over Cannes)..., the surrounding landscape moved Bonnard deeply, just as Sainte-Victoire touched Cézanne or Giverny did Monet. It was to him an inspirational land. This history of connections and identity between Bonnard and Le Cannet confers its true legitimacy to his museum.

Bonnard museum

Musee Bonnard

" I hope that my painting will keep, without cracking. I would like to appear before the young painters of the year 2000 with butterfly wings ". (Pierre Bonnard, 1946)

This wish is honored the 25th of June 2011, date of the opening of the museum. Supported by the State, who in 2006 granted it the title of "Musée de France", the museum was carried out on a site close to the Bosquet, the Saint-Vianney hotel, built in 1908.

The idea of the project was to preserve the spirit of the building, one of the last architectural remains of the Belle Epoque, while transforming its space into real exhibition space. The museum's forecourt, public reception area and museum "showcase", opens onto the boulevard Carnot. For the sake of harmony and esthetics, an exterior column (sheltering the lift) was built on one side of the villa, highlighting its architectural quality while giving the building a contemporary feel.

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