Pierre Bonnard French, 1867-1947

After studying law, Bonnard worked at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian in 1888. There he met Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis, with whom he shared a studio in 1890, and through Paul Sérusier became familiar with the theories of Gauguin. He began to exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants in 1891 and held his first solo show at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in 1896. Bonnard and his friends, who included Ker-Xavier Roussel, brother-in-law of Vuillard, and Félix Vallotton, all young men, were known at this time as the Nabis. They exhibited with the dealer Le Barc de Boutteville, contributed to the Revue Blanche, founded in 1891 by the brothers Alexandre and Thadée Natanson, and did decorations and stage designs for the Théatre de l'Oeuvre, founded by Aurélien-Francois Lugné-Poe in 1893. During the 1890s and 1900s Bonnard's decorative flair was particularly in evidence. His work during this period had affinities with Art Nouveau in its linear rhythms and decorative qualities. His admiration for Japanese woodcuts earned him the epithet 'the Japanese Nabi'. His first major solo show was in 1904 at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, with whom he had entered into an agreement in 1899. It was followed by a series of shows in 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1913. The first monograph about his work, by Léon Werth, appeared in 1919. In 1912, together with Vuillard, Roussel and Vallotton, Bonnard refused the Légion d'honneur. From c. 1910 he developed an enthusiasm for the landscape of the Mediterranean and southern France. About 1915 he became dissatisfied with his work and deliberately gave strict attention to formal qualities. He was essentially a colourist with a deep feeling for the sensuous qualities of paint. In the words of Denys Sutton: 'his art illustrates his determination to create a pattern composed of calligraphy and colour and in which the final effects were shimmering and mysterious.'