Happy New Year! How would you like to start 2023 in a new, creative way?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be posting an installment of our book, Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively offering you a pathway to art and the vision of the artist. Enabling you to develop your own inner creativity and apply it to the personal cycle of everyday living.
II. The Journey to Art
Creative Routines at Home, Part III (from March 15, 2023)
Matisse (1869-1954) and Bonnard (1867-1947)
Born just two years apart, Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard were colleagues and friends, inviting us repeatedly, and always graciously, into their homes. Matisse was the artist of the hotel room and apartment. Bonnard preferred his house, but both were perfect hosts. They guide us through the entry doors into a private domain of open windows and luxurious rooms. Members of the next generation after the Impressionists, they worshipped color, advancing beyond the spectrum of their artistic mentors, Monet and Renoir.
Matisse was the younger, born in 1869 in an industrial area of France, while Bonnard, two years the elder, spent his early years in an attractive suburb. Both from middle class families, their fathers were in business and government. Neither was raised to consider painting a valid career, and ironically the two future leaders of modern art spent their late teens and early twenties earning law degrees. Bonnard discovered his talent for drawing when still a child, while Matisse realized his destiny at the age of twenty one during his recuperation from appendicitis. “It was as if I had been called,” he remembered later. “Henceforth I did not lead my life, it led me.”
Although they both began their careers in Paris, by their middle years, they were captives of the Riviera where they established residences. Matisse settled along the beach at Nice, occupying several places such as the Hotel Regina and Felix Place, while Bonnard preferred his villa in Le Cannet. For several decades, until their eighties, each would compose and orchestrate his own dreams and visions, in spite of illnesses, war, and personal losses.
What is a Matisse? What is a Bonnard?
Although Matisse created portraits and landscapes, it is his interiors that entice us. Within the walls and alcoves of his rented rooms, he simulated the motifs and and atmosphere of the Orient—mingling tapestries, floral screens, and striped tablecloths, dotted with parakeets, checkerboards, lemons, and plants, as well as voluptuous models. Bonnard was often inspired by two different spaces of his home, the source of nourishment, the other of cleanliness. First, the dining room with its rich buffets, deep cupboards, and the ever-present tablecloth, wine red or sugar white in tone with confection-colored food. Then the bathroom, bejeweled and resplendent with rainbow colors and shimmering tubs.
The Bonnard Gallery
Dining Room in the Country, 1913, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN
Bonnard’s room seems a paradise, in which to dream rather than to dine. Colors for all the senses vibrate and surprise as they multiply; lavender, tangerine, fuchsia, chartreuse, maroon, turquoise, ad infinitum. Does anyone really live here? A table awaits you, powdery blue in hue, on which fruit concoctions are placed, resembling sugar cakes. It seems unlikely that you will have your choice of comfortable chairs, both of them already occupied by house cats who blend in with the decor. Their mistress hovers quietly closely by, pausing before she enters her own private world.
Pierre Bonnard, one of the leading artists of the first half of the twentieth century, immortalized his dining rooms frequently during his career, in his homes in the Seine Valley near Paris, and the Riviera in the south of France. “Dining Room in the Country” in Ma Roulette (My Caravan), Bonnard’s nickname for the more northern of his abodes, which he purchased in 1912. His neighbor was Claude Monet, at that time in his early seventies, from whom Bonnard may have learned a few secrets about achieving a masterpiece.
COMING NEXT: AN EXCURSION OF DISCOVERY
Copyright 2010: Joan Hart, Museum One, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented including photocopying, recording and information storage and retrieval without permission from the publisher.