Roberta Smith on Pierre Bonnard at the Met: “Working simultaneously on several unstretched canvases tacked directly to the wall, he painted largely from memory with the help of quick sketches and watercolors, burnishing his motifs until they approached incandescence. He said that painting from reality distracted him from the task of making the painting a freestanding entity. (A painting ‘is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a certain order’ was how Bonnard’s fellow Nabi Maurice Denis put it.) “In his best works, seeing and feeling merged in forms that glowed from within; decorative and subjective became one. It’s not just the colors that radiate in a Bonnard; there’s also the heat of mixed emotions, rubbed into smoothness, shrouded in chromatic veils and intensified by unexpected spatial conundrums and by elusive, uneasy figures. “One of the most interesting things about Bonnard’s paintings is the time warp created by their folding together of form, color and feeling. Everything contributes to a kind of slowness that relates to both art and life. We experience his surfaces as diaries of their own making, accruing with pauses and second thoughts in gentle or erratic brushstrokes, layers of color within color and tracts of contrasting textures. We sense both the time and emotion invested in them.”
“Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors,” organized by Dita Amory. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Through April 19.
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