Lot 10
  • 10

Pierre Bonnard

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Femme à table
  • Stamped with the signature Bonnard (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 25 3/4 by 16 1/2 in.
  • 65.4 by 42 cm


Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1923)

Henri Canonne, Paris

Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York

Acquired from the above in September 1983 by A. Alfred Taubman


New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., XIX & XX Century Master Paintings, 1983, no. 13, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Pierre Bonnard Retrospective, 1984-85, no. 100, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Sotheby's, Walker's Exhibits: Works of Art from the Private Collections of Alumnae Families of The Ethel Walker School, 1998


La Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, no. 10, Paris, May 5, 1924, illustrated p. 328

Verve, vol. I, no. 3, Paris, 1938, illustrated in color p. 64

Raymond Cogniat, Bonnard, New York, 1968, illustrated in color p. 41 (titled Le déjeuner and as dating from 1922)

Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint 1920-1939, vol. III, Paris, 1973, no. 1211, illustrated p. 177

Architectural Digest, New York, May-June, 1976, illustrated in color p. 66


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at (212) 606-7360 for the condition report for this lot.
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

Executed in 1923, Femme à table is a remarkably vibrant composition that explores two of Bonnard's main themes, the intimate moments of everyday life and portraiture. The present work shares the brilliant quality of light characteristic found in Bonnard's Mediterranean works also dating from this time period, with the light breaking through onto the scene and enveloping the table scape and the seated woman with a warm glow and bursting color. Discussing Bonnard's work from the period, John Rewald notes, "With the exception of Vuillard, no painter of his generation was to endow his technique with so much sensual delight, so much feeling for the indefinable texture of paint, so much vibration.  His paintings are covered with color applied with a delicate voluptuousness that confers to the pigment a life of its own and treats every single stroke like a clear note of a symphony.  At the same time Bonnard's colors changed from opaque to transparent and brilliant, and his perceptiveness seemed to grow as his brush found ever more expert and more subtle means to capture the richness both of his imagination and of nature" (J. Rewald in Pierre Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1948, p. 48).

The woman in the present work bears a striking resemblance to Bonnard's wife Marthe the beloved subject of many works throughout his oeuvre. Here, she is the linchpin of the composition situated at the center. Bonnard's main concern was to capture the quiet moments of domestic life in a decorative and modern style. In Femme à table, balance is struck between the jostle and brightness of the paint and the quiet, almost meditative stillness of the moment.  Timothy Hyman comments on this focus stating, "Bonnard's art could not operate within the vestigial spatial formula inherited by most twentieth-century painters; that shallow shelf, or simplified vertical/horizontal grid, which was the legacy of Poussin and David, via Cézanne and Cubism.  In the previously unchartered territory of peripheral vision, Bonnard discovered strange flattening, wobbles, sifts of angle as well as of color, and darkening of tone, penumbral adventures and metamorphoses which liberated him from visual convention. It was as though the central area of fact were surrounded by much less predictable, almost fabulous margins; where imagination and reverie and memory could be asserted as a heightened reality, in impossible intensities of color" (T. Hyman, Bonnard, London, 1998, pp. 160-161).

As is the case for many of Bonnard's best interior scenes, this picture requires the viewer to take time to look at the composition and absorb the spatial relationships of all of its elements.  John Elderfield wrote about the importance of examining Bonnard's pictures carefully, stating, "Bonnard would say that, first and foremost, he sought to paint the savor of things, to recover their savor.  This is his Chardin side.  He requires that a painting be slowly absorbed, be savored, so that its surprises well up, one after another, into the field of perception and thereby articulate the original seductive vision in its performative representation by the beholder" (Sarah Whitfield & John Elderfield, Bonnard [exhibition catalogue], Tate Gallery, London & The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, pp. 47-48).