Pierre Bonnard(1867 - 1947)
Louis Carré, Paris
JPL Fine Arts, London
Mr. J. Dellal (until at least 1998) Neffe-Degandt Fine Art, London Sotheby’s New York, 2015 Private Collection, Switzerland
London, Hayward Gallery, Bonnard at Le Bosquet, 1994, no. 41
London, Tate Gallery, Bonnard, 1998, no. 110, illustrated in color in the catalogue
La Baignoire, executed in 1942, is an exquisite rendition of the most important subject of Bonnard’s mature career. From the turn of the century until his death, the artist continuously returned to depicting the female figure in the intimate setting of the bathroom. Executed in luminous tones of yellows and pinks, the present work is a superbly rare work on paper. Bonnard’s female figures were usually posed in domestic settings in various states of undress—preparing for or after their bath. Commenting on the present work, Sargy Mann has described it as being: “an exceptional work in Bonnard’s oeuvre; a gouache completely reworked in pastel” (quoted inBonnard at Le Bosquet(exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1994, p. 93).
In La Baignoire Bonnard has created a strong composition by cropping the scene to focus on his main subject, his female sitter. The surface of the sheet is enlivened by the decorative pattern created by the curtain which creates a foil for the chequered tiles in the background and the scintillating body of the figure emerging in the foreground. Between these bold designs, the bather is interposed; her body refracted by the water, her nudity emphasized and sensualized. As stated by Sarah Whitfield in her discussion of Bonnard’s art: “Bonnard’s paintings are about the intimacy of contact: the contact made by the eye and the hand, the contact of light as it catches of brushes a surface, the intimacy of the contact between painter and paint” (quoted in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London & The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, p. 25). The voyeurism of the present work and the exploration of the nude in the bathroom, an interest in the unselfconscious woman in her own domestic space, is element in Bonnard’s work shared with the iconic interpretations of Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
La Baignoire is one of eleven gouaches commissioned by Louis Carré in 1942 for a set of lithographs put onto stone created by Jacques Villon between 1942 and 1946.