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Bonnard Pierre (1867 - 1947)

Pierre Bonnard {baw-nar'}, b. Oct. 3, 1867, d. Jan. 23, 1947, began his long painting career in Paris in the early 1890s. He was one of the first artists to use pure color in flat patterns enlivened by decorative linear arabesques in paintings, posters, and designs for stained-glass windows and books. Together with his friend Edouard Vuillard and the other members of the group known as the Nabis (Hebrew for "prophets"), he helped establish a new, modern style of decoration that was important for the emergence of Art Nouveau in the late 1890s. The paintings of Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet done in the late 1880s were the principal source for the new style of the Nabis. Bonnard, "the very Japanese Nabi," also drew on Japanese prints for his striking simplifications of form and his bold use of bright colors. In 1894, however, he turned to more somber colors and restricted his subject matter to intimate views of domestic life. When, around 1900, he again began to use bright hues, he adopted the impressionist broken brushstroke and abandoned the linear configurations of his earlier work. Throughout the remainder of his career, Bonnard continued and expanded the impressionists' concern for depicting the personal environment of the artist. His naturalism, however, was merely a starting point for striking innovations in color and the construction of perspective. After 1920 intense colors dissolve forms yet celebrate the painter's sensuous delight in the lush southern French landscape and, above all, the beauty of the female nude. Bonnard's entire stylistic evolution offers a transition from impressionism to a coloristic, abstract art. Critics now recognize the importance of Bonnard's contribution to the development of abstraction. During his lifetime, however, they often found his work old-fashioned, because of his commitment to figuration and the narrow scope of his themes. Dining Room on the Garden (1934-35; Guggenheim Museum, New York) is an excellent example of Bonnard's late style.

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