Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Borderless art: Bonnard's late paintings

Something about the perspective, color, flatness and yet depth, in Pierre Bonnard's late paintings exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art remind me of David Hockney's interiors.

Although separated by a little more than a half century, both artists dissect the picture plane into facets, not unlike cubism, yet still maintain the essence of the space or reality being depicted, with the image somehow transcending the border of the painting.

Revealing Bonnard's (born 1867) modernism is the intention of curator Dita Armory in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition of the artist's late paintings, made from 1923-1947, while he lived in a house in France overlooking the Mediterranean until his death. I am convinced.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art press release and the exhibition copy explains how Bonnard did not work from life, directly, but would make sketches and then synthesize the paintings from memory, using the most luminescent, opalescent, mauvescent, whitescent, colors imaginable.

But besides fluttering every color from a shimmering pastel rainbow palette onto the surface of his canvas, his intimate interiors, still lifes, and window views extend their reach beyond the painting, almost capturing the curve of the earth, if you stand far enough away to look at them, while at the same time zeroing on a table with a breakfast waiting to be consumed.

Impressionists often relied on somewhat traditional and aerial perspectives in their representation of reality. Bonnard, a so-called post-Impressionist, seems to have created his own perspective, like Mr. Hockney. No reproduction, postcard, website image or words can capture that vertiginous sensation of nearness, depth, distance, color and immediacy. No wonder the exhibition was so crowded on a recent Saturday.

(Images courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Left, Pierre Bonnard, "White Interior," 1932, (Oil on canvas, 43 1/8 x 61 3/8 in. (109.5 x 155.8 cm) Musée de Grenoble Photography © Musée de Grenoble © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris); Right, Pierre Bonnard,"Dining Room Overlooking the Garden,"(The Breakfast Room), 1930-31, (Oil on canvas, 62 7/8 x 44 7/8 in. (159.6 x 113.8 cm), The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously 1941, Digital Image © The Museum of ModernArt/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, N.Y.))

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