Born in 1867, Pierre Bonnard enters the Faculty of Law, to conform to his father’s wishes, while attending the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. He nevertheless abandoned his legal career in 1891 to devote himself entirely to art. Although strongly influenced by artists such as Degas, Gauguin, Monet and Cézanne, and a member of the Nabis, he developed his own pictorial vocabulary throughout his life. We find, under an apparent simplicity, themes often taken from everyday life to which a vibrant chromatic treatment gives a flamboyant dimension. The artist travelled a lot from the 1900s, criss-crossing Spain, Italy, Holland and Belgium.
It was around 1912 that Bonnard bought his house in Vernonnet (near Vernon), which he named his “Roulotte”. Chosen for its view of the Normandy plain, where the Seine meanders, it offers the painter a haven of peace. The painter’s interviews with Monet, who had a house not far from Giverny, undoubtedly contributed to the conceptual revolution that was taking place there. The terrace of this house, his studio and his dining room became the artist’s favourite subjects. Bonnard was above all a colourist: he confided to his brother-in-law Charles Terrasse that in many of his paintings, colour takes precedence over form. However, while colour was central to Bonnard’s work from an early age, the composition of the canvas, in that it created harmony and order, also played a major role.
Léon Werth, an art critic who was familiar with Bonnard’s work, emphasised the singularity of Bonnard’s view of the everyday world in his monograph on him: “Does Bonnard paint the world? Rather, I believe that he is witnessing the birth of the world, the sudden and miraculous birth of objects and characters before him, the Universe is newborn (…)”. His pictorial independence, his desire to make everything that can be seen visible, and his mastery of the colours and structure of his paintings, effectively make Pierre Bonnard a pillar of modern painting.