Lot 55
  • 55

Pierre Bonnard

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Coupe et corbeille de fruits
  • Signed Bonnard (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 17 by 20 7/8 in.
  • 43 by 53 cm


Acquired by the present owner in 1964


Marcq-en-Baroeul, Fondation Anne et Albert Prouvost, Bonnard, 1978, no. 40

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centres Georges Pompidou; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection & Dallas, The Dallas Museum, Bonnard, The Late Paintings, 1984, no. 56 (no. 59 in Washington & Dallas), illustrated in color in the catalogue

Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection & Denver, Denver Art Museum, Pierre Bonnard, Early and Late, 2002-03, no. 128, illustrated in color in the catalogue


J. Saucet, "Bonnard," Paris-Match, January 14, 1967, Paris, illustrated in color p. 30

Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. IV, Paris, 1974, no. 1607, illustrated p. 45 (as dating from circa 1941)

Michel Terrasse, Bonnard et Le Cannet, Paris, 1987, illustrated in color pp. 68-69

André Terrasse, Bonnard, Paris, 1988, p. 296


Very good condition. The canvas is lined. Under UV light, no evidence of retouching is visible in the painted composition. Minor frame abrasion at the extreme periphery, particularly in the lower right corner.
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

Bonnard painted this vibrant still-life in 1944 while living in Le Cannet during the War.  This subject had occupied a large part of the artist's oeuvre over the course of his career, but in his later pictures, his approach to these compositions is much more experimental.   Although the date of this painting was originally believed to be around 1941, according to the catalogue raisonné, Antoine Terrasse later confirmed that it was in fact dated 1944.  The work is closely related to a sketch in Bonnard's diary from that year, in which the same bowl, basket and and melon appear in a similar arrangement (fig. 1). 

Many of Bonnard's paintings explore the dramatic effect of rendering a void in the center of the composition, with the compositional elements relegated to the periphery.  In her assessment of this painting in the exhibition catalogue Bonnard, The Late Paintings, Laure de Buzon-Vallet points out that "it is surprising, therefore, to see that there is a strong central element in Coupe et corbeille de fruits.  The basket of fruit, although pushed into the upper corner, constitutes the focal point of the painting due to its intense lighting" (Laure de Buzon-Vallet, op. cit., p. 224).  Even in the very early intimiste paintings of the 1890s, Bonnard had shown how the tightly circumscribed space of a tablecloth could be made to seem as expansive and limitless as landscape.  Here, the large basket of fruit is positioned at the upper left corner, while the majority of the central zone is occupied by the table top.

The plate at the upper edge of the composition is severely cropped and appears to fall out of focus, as if our eye were being directed towards the bowl of fruit towards the bottom center of the composition.  The almost tremulous quality of Bonnard's vision in the last years, so movingly evident in this work, depends upon his heightened powers of perception, his fidelity to an experience both mobile and variable.  Very often, as John Elderfield has recently pointed out, there is a blur that occurs near the center of Bonnard's composition, mimicking the eye's ability to focus on particular objects while obscuring others in the same line of sight: "A depiction of retinal blur will ... puzzle the eye which, having been stimulated into unproductive accommodation, will first continue to accommodate (like searching for something under obscure circumstances, something distant from the eye, or in shadow, or irradiating, or disintegrating....) until search for the signification in the 'void' overleads or frustrates the perceptual system and, in a reversal of tunnel vision, turns attention to the periphery, being egged on by sight of (previously occluded) peripheral elements.  Then the center will call for attention again..." (John Elderfield, "Seeing Bonnard," Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998-99, p. 39).