Pierre Bonnard<br/>
French 1867–1947<br/>
<em>The dining room in the country</em> (<em>Salle à manger à la campagne</em>) 1913<br/>
oil on canvas<br/>
164.5 × 205.7 cm<br/>
Minneapolis Institute of Art<br/>
The John R. Van Derlip Fund (54.15)<br/>
Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art
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Pierre Bonnard
French 1867–1947
Media Release • 23 Oct 19

Exclusive world premiere Pierre Bonnard exhibition in Melbourne

NGV International | 5 June – 4 October 2020 | Admission fees apply 

The Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series at the National Gallery of Victoria will unveil Pierre Bonnard, an exclusive world-premiere exhibition developed in partnership with Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, presenting a much loved early 20th century artist in an immersive exhibition designed by award-winning architect and designer, India Mahdavi.

Celebrated for paintings rendered with an iridescent palette, which captured intimate portrayals of domestic scenes and rural life, French-born Pierre Bonnard (-1947) was declared by his close friend Henri Matisse as ‘a great painter, for today and definitely also for the future’.

With loans drawn from the Musée d’Orsay’s impressive collection of Bonnard’s work, along with significant loans from other museums in France, the exhibition will also include key works from Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Art Institute of Chicago. These will join works from Australian public collections, including the NGV’s own important early Bonnard painting, La Sieste (Siesta), 1900.

“This collaboration with the NGV is an opportunity for us to reinforce the cultural legacy of a remarkable French artist and the incredible riches that are contained within the Musée d’Orsay Collection,” said Laurence des Cars, Director, Musée d’Orsay.

Revealing the artist’s use of colour to convey emotions, Pierre Bonnard will feature around 150 works drawn from the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, spanning paintings, drawings, photographs, decorative objects and early cinema.

For the exhibition, the NGV has commissioned the celebrated Iranian-Egyptian-French designer India Mahdavi to create the exhibition’s scenography. Employing her singular approach to colour palette and texture, Mahdavi will envelop Pierre Bonnard’s works in an immersive environment that complements the aura of domestic intimacy for which Bonnard’s paintings are so renowned.

A design icon, Mahdavi has appeared multiple times in Architectural Digest world’s 100 most influential architects and designers list. Her singular approach to colour, structure and texture has resulted in several acclaimed architectural projects, including a successful collaboration with contemporary British artist David Shrigley for The Gallery at sketch in London. Her interest in the domestic interior has also resulted in ranges of furniture and design objects for the home.

“Monsieur Bonnard and I share the same passion: colour.” said India Mahdavi. “I love his subjective perception of colour – the way he transforms the intimacy of everyday life into something sublime – how he invites us into his home, to look through a bathroom door, or to look out through the window onto the sunset in Le Cannet.”

“Bonnard’s universal vision of space and time, his luminous and nuanced palette, his vibrant touch, his complex compositions revealing invisible worlds, make the artist a major figure in French painting at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The power of his talent is expressed through intimate subjects which are accessible to all, a tribute to his timeless genius,” said Isabelle Cahn, Chief Curator of Paintings, Musée d’Orsay.

“The Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series at the NGV is always highly anticipated and Pierre Bonnard will be another huge drawcard. This exhibition will present the work of one of the world’s best-loved artists like never before thanks to the design mastery of Iranian-Egyptian-French designer India Mahdavi,” said Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries.

“Pierre Bonnard is one of the most captivating artists of the post-Impressionist movement,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria.

“Inviting viewers into his interior scenes with his vivid use of colour, we are delighted to bring the work of this 19th century painter to a 21st century audience, in a distinctive space designed by India Mahdavi,” said Ellwood.

Exploring Bonnard’s key role within the Nabi circle of artists, where he created works inspired by a Japanese aesthetic, the exhibition will present the artist’s interactions with the contemporary worlds of music and theatre, including the iconic red and white motif of Le Corsage à carreaux (The Chequered Blouse) 1892. Tracing the artist’s evolving practice during the latter half of the 1890s, Pierre Bonnard will also present recordings of daily life on the streets of Paris, observing what Bonnard called the ‘theatre of the everyday’.

Intimate studies of the artist’s domestic life will be presented in early nude portraits of his lover and wife, Marthe Boursin, including the NGV’s La Sieste (Siesta) 1900, previously owned by novelist and art collector Gertrude Stein, along with later works such as Nu accroupi au tub (Nude crouching in the tub) 1918. Exhibition highlights will also include Bonnard’s large-scale paintings, featuring scenes of nature overlayed with expansive decorative qualities, as well as landscape compositions influenced by French Impressionism.

Pierre Bonnard will showcase vibrant interior scenes painted after the artist relocated to Le Cannet on the French Riviera in 1926, where the light and warmth of the south inspired him to flood his canvases with high-keyed colour. Following this time, Bonnard turned his attention to studies of poignant introspection with new paintings of Boursin and self-portraits including Le Boxeur (portrait de l’artiste) 1931, in which he assumes the persona of a boxer. The exhibition will also feature the artist’s final work L’Amandier en fleurs (The Almond Tree in Blossom) 1947.

Pierre Bonnard will be on display at NGV International from 5 June – 4 October 2020. Tickets and information are available via the NGV website ngv.melbourne