Pierre Bonnard

Dates1867 - 1947

A Symbolist writer colleague described Pierre Bonnard as "capable of embellishing all the ugly things of our life with the ingenious and iridescent flowerings of his imagination." A War Ministry official's son, Bonnard was destined for the law, but on becoming a barrister in 1889, he was already attending the Académie Julian and meeting painters Paul Sérusier and Maurice Denis. By 1890 he had evolved his own style through studying Paul Gauguin's art and Japanese prints. In joining Sérusier's group the Nabis, Bonnard shared a commitment to everyday objects; he created designs for decorative panels, stained glass, pottery, fans, and furniture. In 1891 Bonnard's first, competition-winning poster so impressed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec that Lautrec decided to enter the art field himself. With money and courage from this poster's success, Bonnard quit the law and rented a studio in Montmartre.

By the early 1900s, the Nabis had separated. Bonnard traveled throughout Europe, often accompanied by Édouard Vuillard. He began interweaving colors on his canvases like the Impressionists, but unlike his predecessors, Bonnard was concerned with stringent compositional order and color's expressiveness. Ironically, he also found support in new friendships with Impressionists Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. After 1920 Bonnard's painting and printmaking were constantly acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic.