Research – Pierre Bonnard

Tutor feedback from my last assignment suggested that I analyse Pierre Bonnard’s work to look at composition and shifting viewpoints. I have always enjoyed Bonnard’s paintings, mainly for the sense of drowsy heat he captures, his use of colour and the richness of his images.

Pierre Bonnard, ‘Coffee’ 1915
Le Cafe, 1915. Pierre Bonnard.  Oil on canvas. Tate Modern.

Bonnard often features a large patterned area in his work. In this case, the tablecloth takes up about 66% of the picture. Our viewpoint of the table is high while we see the coffee pot, cup, dog and coffee- drinker from a lower angle. The figure on the right blurs into the top of the picture and there is an odd decorative border on the right-hand side. A painted door frame or patterned curtain? The luxurious patterns continue in the background while to the left the floor and wall are simple but colour-saturated. The yellows and reds radiate a comfort and warmth. The light is coming from the right – maybe morning sunshine coming through a window.

Pierre Bonnard, ‘Preparatory Sketch for ‘Coffee’’ 1915Pierre Bonnard, ‘Preparatory Sketch for ‘Coffee’’ 1915

Pierre Bonnard, ‘Preparatory Sketch for ‘Coffee’’ 1915

The Tate also holds preparatory sketches for this painting which show Bonnard exploring different angles for the table and the light falling on the figure. I like the ultra sketchy sketches!

Pierre Bonnard, ‘The Window’ 1925
La Fenetre, Pierre Bonnard. 1925. Oil on Canvas

The colours in this picture are simply beautiful. Everything glows. I am especially interested in the viewpoint of this picture. The artist is very close to the desk in the foreground so at the bottom of the picture we look down on the patterned table cloth, then a little further away the table cloth pattern is at an angle. While some areas are broken up in to almost abstract blocks, the eye is still led into the picture with the zig zag of the window bar and balcony, and, in the other direction with the village houses leading to the hills.


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