Lot 411
  • 411

Pierre Bonnard

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pierre Bonnard
  • En barque
  • stamped Bonnard (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 74 by 85cm., 29 1/8 by 33 1/2 in.


Estate of the Artist
Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., London
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above)
Private Collection (by descent from the above; sale: Christie's London, 8th December 1999, lot 27)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947, 1969, no. 25, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled as Deux femmes et enfants en barque)


Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint 1906-1919, Paris, 1992, vol. II, no. 462, illustrated p. 85


The canvas is not lined. There is a horizontal crease running along the upper edge of the canvas with minor associated craquelure. Under UV light certain original pigments fluoresce and in-painting is visible along and above the horizontal crease line. Additional spots of in-painting include two lines towards the centre left edge (the longer of which is approx 3in), as well as a few extremely minor strokes around the figures at the lower centre. The colours appear bright and fresh and overall this work is in good condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

En barque relates to a work of the same title and from around the same date that is currently in the Musée d’Orsay and depicts the artist’s wife Marthe and two children in a boat. Bonnard was twenty-six years old when he met Marthe de Meligny on a street in Paris in 1893; she was to become the long-term love of his life and the inspiration behind many of his most beautiful works. It is difficult to know whether Bonnard would have become the master of interiors and the intimate paintings for which he is so renowned today were it not for the domesticating influence of Marthe de Meligny. In 1912, they bought a small house together on a hillside above the Seine at Vernonnet, in Normandy. Bonnard delighted in his daily strolls through the lush surrounding countryside and even bought a small boat on which he would entertain friends.

The present work marks the artist's return to Impressionism after his Nabis period and demonstrates his exceptional mastery of colour. A gentle light pours in from the skies above, achieving a warm glow in the distant horizon and a patchwork of shimmers in the trees. The evocation of a sympathetic natural environment is complemented by the happy figures who inhabit it: three passengers of a small rowing boat, untroubled ducks on the water and a boy informally fishing on the bank. Bonnard’s development in style and subject from 1905 onwards demonstrates a completely self-sufficient maturity. Sasha M. Newman observes: ‘Bonnard’s retreat to the country, his sensitivity to the cycles of nature, expressed both in his art and his life, parallel Monet’s earlier withdrawal from urban life. Bonnard, who in the 1890s was a painter of Paris, moves more and more towards the creation of his own private world, and the conflict in his art is less between city and country as between his will to paint both the contemporary and the timeless’ (Sasha M. Newman in Bonnard: The Late Paintings (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, 1984, p. 136).

Marthe de Meligny seemed to evoke in Bonnard an untraditional tenderness. She suffered from an unspecified illness for most of her life which rendered her timid and frail. Bonnard’s depictions of her range from nudes to domestic scenes, however there is one unflinching constant and that is the artist’s watchful and caring gaze: ‘We are always made acutely aware that whatever the subject of the painting – a nude, a still life, a landscape – what we are being asked to witness (and to participate in) is the process of looking. But it is in the paintings of Marthe above all that we find Bonnard portraying himself as the ever-attentive, watchful presence’ (Sarah Whitfield in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p. 17).