Lot 27
  • 27

Pierre Bonnard

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Vase de fleurs avec figure
  • Signed Bonnard (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 29 3/4 by 20 1/2 in.
  • 75.5 by 52 cm


Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1928)

Jean Bloch, Paris (acquired from the above)

Sale: Palais Galliera, Paris, June 10, 1963, lot 8

Sam Salz, New York

John D. Rockefeller III, New York

M. Knoedler & Co., New York

Acquired from the above in the late 1970s


Paris, Théàtre Pigalle, L’Art vivant,1930

Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, Bonnard, 1936, no. 12

Paris, Galerie Bellier, Bonnard, 1960, no. 19, illustrated in the catalogue


Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1920-1939, vol. III, Paris, 1973, no. 1400, illustrated p. 322


Excellent condition. Original canvas. Under UV light, there is no evidence of retouching.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The glistening earthenware and vibrant floral arrangement of Vase de fleurs avec figure combine the intimisme of Bonnard's earlier Nabis pictures with the vibrant coloration of his later years.  Still-lifes had occupied a large part of the artist's oeuvre over the course of his career, but as he developed his style, his approach became more experimental.  The present composition illustrates his more daring approach to pictorial arrangement.  The floral still life, the focal point of the scene, is positioned in the middle-distance, surrounded by tonally-variant washes of red paint that foreshadow the techniques of Abstract Expressionists nearly two decades later.

Bonnard’s comments on his floral paintings are particularly insightful when considering Vase de fleurs avec figure: “I often see interesting things to paint around me, but for me to have the desire to paint them, they must have a special seduction – beauty – what one could call beauty. I paint them trying to keep control of my original idea, but I am weak, and if I let myself go, like with the bouquet of roses, in a moment, I have lost my first impression, and I no longer know where I am going” (quoted in Bonnard: The Late Paintings (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. & Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 1984, p. 138).

The beautifully-rendered arrangement here stands in contrast with the more loosely painted background. Set slightly off centre, the wild bouquet dominates the composition, stretching toward its borders. The abruptly-cropped format, made all the more dramatic by the appearance of the disembodied profile of Marthe in the upper left,  emphasizes the typically intimiste character of the scene.  The spatially-ambiguous positioning of the compositional elements is strongly reminiscent of Matisse's still-lifes and interior scenes. Elie Faure summarised the art of Pierre Bonnard: 'He has this, as do all masters: the surprising freedom that there are so very many things to love all at once, and to understand almost as quickly, to reproduce according to the new order of his being, in a rhythm that confuses and amazes every time' (quoted in Les Cahiers d'aujourd'hui, December 1912, pp. 263-266).

In the recent exhibition catalogue on Bonnard's still-lifes, Dita Amory describes how Bonnard developed relationships with objects he painted, enabling him to reveal a particular beauty that might otherwise overlooked:  "In all his waking moments, Bonnard was searching for the shock of an image, for its potential to become a painting.  In that sense he was not a voyeur but a silent witness, someone simultaneously inside and outside of any given moment.  His discreet presence in the room where he worked gave him status equal to that of the objects he painted; he was one with the chair, the sugar bowl, the teapot, the saltcellar.  In order to paint and object he needed to be familiar with it, to see it sympathetically, or has having its own personality.  Once, when asked to consider some charming ensemble as a potential still life,  he responded simply, 'I haven't lived with that long enough to paint it'" (D. Amory, "The Presence of Objects: Still Life in Bonnard's Late Paintings," in Pierre Bonnard, The Late Still Lifes and Interiors (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 26).