Lot 28
  • 28

Pierre Bonnard

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Femme accoudée avec chien et nature morte
  • Signed Bonnard (upper right)
  • Oil on paper laid down on canvas
  • 24 1/8 by 19 3/4 in.
  • 61.2 by 50.3 cm


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

Joseph Hessel, Paris

Monteaux Collection, Paris

Private Collection, Paris

Wildenstein & Co., New York

Mr. & Mrs. Grover A. Magnin, San Francisco (acquired by 1955 and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 15, 1969, lot 1)

Fred & Erika Fallek, United States (acquired at the above sale and sold by Dr. Erika Fallek's Estate: Christie's, New York, November 9, 1999, lot 526)

Acquired at the above sale


San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition, 1955 (titled Lady in Blue)

San Francisco, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1955 (titled Lady in Blue)


François Fosca, Bonnard, Geneva, 1919, illustrated pl. 11

Gustave Coquiot, Bonnard, Paris, 1922, illustrated (titled Jeune fille and dated 1915)

Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1965, vol. II, no. 924, illustrated p. 424 (with incorrect medium)

Catalogue Note

The subject of the present work is almost certainly Marthe, Bonnard's most frequently portrayed model, accompanied by her little dog Ubu who also makes repeated appearances in the paintings of this period. Born in Saint-Amand-Montrond as Maria Boursin, Marthe moved to Paris to work, changing her name to Marthe de Méligny and there met Bonnard in 1893. She became his model, muse and lover, and although the couple did not marry until 1925, their closeness is evident in the many paintings and photographs of her that Bonnard made in the intervening years. She appears as the nude model-cum-lover in early masterpieces such as La Sieste or L’homme et la femme, but then increasingly in Bonnard’s series of intimate depictions of women dressing, at their toilette or in quiet moments of repose. As his work developed Marthe came progressively to represent the archetypal figure in his art; much like Picasso’s later depictions of his last great love Jacqueline Roque, Bonnard’s paintings of Marthe are not portraits, instead she becomes an everywoman through whom he explores his wider artistic vision. As Gloria Groom explains: “Marthe represented the perfect synthesis of a real and ‘spectacular’ female type… As was typical in Bonnard’s art (and in that of the other Nabis), the actual woman is transformed into a feminine type, psychologically removed from his real relationship with her and adaptable to various scenarios” (G. Groom, “Bonnard’s Decorative Style: Shifting Boundaries” in Pierre Bonnard. Observing Nature (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2003, p. 92). In the present work, however, Bonnard has made some effort to individualize her; there is a psychological intensity more commonly seen in the artist’s earlier work. Her figure fills the picture plane, and the resulting proximity to the viewer, her lowered gaze, and the quietly contemplative nature of her pose capture the studied intimacy of the moment.

The depiction of such moments was central to Bonnard’s artistic vision. A contemporary critic Roger-Marx noted in 1893 that the artist’s work: “catches fleeting poses, steals unconscious gestures, crystallizes the most transient expressions” (quoted in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p. 33). Much has been written about the influence of photography on this aspect of Bonnard’s painting. The artist’s earliest experiments with photography date to the period of his involvement with the Nabis; this group of young artists were predictably intrigued by the new technology and began to use it as another means of capturing everyday life and as a counterpoint to their painterly investigations of the same subjects. The influence of the medium is particularly evident in Femme accoudée avec chien et nature morte where the delicate play of light across the top of her head and shoulders and the deeper shadows of the painting’s recesses indicate a particular sensitivity to light and its effects.

Given Bonnard’s early involvement with the Nabis, it is unsurprising that light and, more importantly, color were so imaginatively explored in his mature work. In Femme accoudée avec chien et nature morte he combines a loose, textured application of paint with a relatively flattened perspective and rich patterning and coloration; these latter reveal his close relationship with artists like Gauguin and his more direct contemporary, Matisse, but Bonnard’s distinctive palette and careful juxtapositions of color are unique to him alone. As John Rewald writes, "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" (quoted in Pierre Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1948, p. 48).

One of the first owner's of Femme accoudée avec chien et nature morte was Jos Hessel, a cousin of Josse and Gaston Bernheim and a noted art dealer, writer and collector. A close friend of the Nabis artists, Hessel and his wife are often depicted in Édouard Vuillard's works.