Pierre Bonnard was born October 3, 1867 in Fontenay aux Roses, France. Throughout his childhood and early adult life he was encouraged, by his father, to study law. While completing his law degree at the University, Bonnard was also took art classes at the local art school. He fell in love with painting and devote himself to being an artist.
In the late 1880's, Bonnard moved to Paris to further his career. He befriended Toulouse-Lautrec in 1891, which would open many doors for the young Bonnard. Around this time Bonnard began to participate in many group shows and other various extracurriculars of the art community in Paris. It was only a matter of time before he met fellow emerging French artist Édouard Vuillard. The two of them began working together designing covers for La Revue Blanche, a prominent French pop culture magazine of the late 19th century. Bonnard's first solo show was held in 1896 at the Galerie Durand-Ruel located in Paris.
After his first solo exhibit Bonnard along with Vuillard turned away from the popular impressionistic style of the time and began the Les Nabis movement with their contemporary Maurice Denis. The Les Nabis focused on creating symbolic or spiritual natured pieces drawing influence from japanese prints, Art Nouveau, and post-impressionist ideals. In 1910 he left Paris for the country side in the south of France. Many Les Nabis artists preferred the lush landscapes and the slower pace of the southern countryside as apposed to the expanding hustle and bustle of city life. Bonnard preferred the solitude of the country to the busy city.
A huge exhibit was held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1938 to showcased his large body of work alongside Vuillard's. Bonnard continued paint up until the end of his life. He finished his last painting, The Almond Tree in Blossom, one week prior to his death in January of 1947, in his small cottage in the French Riviera. That same year a large retrospective was held in Paris to commemorate Bonnard and the Museum of Modern Art in New York put together an enormous retrospective that was held the following year in 1948.
Bonnard was well known and highly respected in the art world for his bold use of color and implementing complex composition structures into his work. Most of his subject matter is landscapes, urban scenes, and portraits, but throughout his whole career Bonnard's wife was often the subject of his work. Bonnard's process differed from other artists of his time because he did not paint from direct observation. He would go out on walk and sketch his surroundings or make loose doodles of the subject matter he wanted to paint; really observing it in the moment. Then he would go back to his studio and paint from a combination of his sketches and memory. This allowed him to create more colorful dynamic compositions which gave his work more of memory or dream-like quality making it very easy for the viewer to relate.
By Christian Franzen
Nude in Bath