Lot 16
  • 16

PIERRE BONNARD | Femme à sa toilette (Le Peignoir)

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Femme à sa toilette (Le Peignoir)
  • Signed Bonnard (upper right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 45 1/2 by 21 7/8 in.
  • 115.5 by 55.5 cm
  • Painted circa 1923.


Galerie L’Arte Moderne, Lucerne

Private Collection, Paris (acquired in 1949)

Galerie Georges Moos, Geneva

Dr. Édouard Troester, Geneva (acquired from the above)

Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York

Mr. & Mrs. Walter Bareiss, Greenwich, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 1956)

E.V. Thaw & Co., New York

Acquired from the above in 1976


Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Bonnard, oeuvres récentes, 1926, no. 6

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Bonnard, 1947, no. 34

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947, 1949, no. 99

New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni, 1956, no. 130, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, World House Gallery, The Struggle for New Form, 1957, no. 8

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Fifty Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bareiss, 1958, no. 5, illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Neue Staatsgalerie, Sammlung Walter Bareiss, 1965, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas Collects: Impressionist and Early Modern Masters, 1978, no. 50, illustrated in the catalogue

Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1979 (on loan)

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection & Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Bonnard: The Late Paintings, 1984, no. 25, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Impressionist and Modern Masters in Dallas: From Monet to Mondrian, 1989, no. 9

Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, “Private Collection, Texas”: European Masterpieces from Texas Homes, Past and Present, 2009-10


René Édouard-Joseph, Dictionnaire biographique des artistes contemporains, 1910-1930, vol. I, Paris, 1930, illustrated p. 159

Gotthard Jedlicka, Pierre Bonnard, Ein Beusch, Zurich, 1949, illustrated pp. 80-81

Die Weltkunst, Berlin, April 15, 1957, illustrated p. 17

George Heard Hamilton, “The Collector as a Guide to Taste” in Artnews, New York, April 1958

Edith Hoffman, “Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: New York” in The Burlington Magazine, New York, June 1958, p. 222

Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint 1920-1939, vol. III, Paris, 1973, no. 1218, illustrated p. 184

Catalogue Note

When viewed in relation to a number of Bonnard’s bathing scenes from this time period, Femme à sa toilette (Le Peignor) seems to document the first stage of a calm and quotidian ritual. One of the most lovingly and luminously painted of Bonnard’s bathing scenes, the present work captures the sitter in a private moment just before undressing. Unaware of the viewer, her gaze drifts toward her foot, a brightly patterned slipper having been just removed. Reaching toward her leg, the woman instinctively holds fast the opening of her robe, despite the apparent seclusion of the setting. While such a gesture might indicate the model’s awareness of the artist, Bonnard rarely painted directly from life, preferring instead to characterize his subjects in incandescent amalgams born out of prior sketches and long-internalized observations. The model here is almost certainly the artist’s partner, muse and later wife, Marthe de Méligny who is a recurring and mysterious figure throughout Bonnard’s work (see fig. 1). Always attuned to his surroundings and the familiar objects within them, Bonnard would increasingly depict interior and bathing scenes in his later years as he and his wife grew progressively more reclusive. Marthe, whose health plagued her throughout her life, was known to take frequent, verging on obsessive, baths during these times in an effort treat her unidentified ailments.

The present work initially seems to depict his muse from above, her head and gaze cast downward. Marthe’s elongated lower legs designate the foreground, exaggerating the elevated perspectival effect as the eye is drawn toward the sloping, deliquescent ground. Behind the shifting blues and whites of her dressing gown, however, lies the entryway which stands squarely parallel to the plane. Paired with the slanted floor, the door’s concentric contours of molding help to create a subtly vertiginous environment. By magnifying the scale of the scene, yet retaining the close composition of his earlier Intimist works, Bonnard directs all attention to the figure at center, compressing the room’s depth and conflating its multiple perspectives. With his play on light and perspective, and uncanny juxtaposition of figures, Bonnard’s seemingly simple interior scenes belie a deeper sense of mystery, revealing the quiet virtuosity and forethought of the inimitable painter.

A photo of Bonnard’s studio at Le Cannet (see fig. 2), where he lived and worked from around 1925 until his death, shows tacked to his wall a row of foil candy wrappers neatly aligned and stamped with various patterns—references which encouraged Bonnard to “find [his] sparkles” in his painting (P. Courthion, Bonnard: Peintre du merveilleux, Paris, 1945, pp. 30-31). The same image of Bonnard’s studio wall also shows a mix of postcards, maps and reproductions of works by Gauguin, Picasso, Seurat, as well as that of a Classical female nude. Such myriad visual sources reveal Bonnard’s wide-ranging knowledge of and appreciation for works both historic and modern. Marthe’s unconventional yet innately human pose in Femme à sa toilette, finds resonance in the well-known Classical sculpture of the Spinario, which dates back to the first century B.C. and depicts a young boy hunched over as he pulls a thorn from his foot (see fig. 3). Like Degas, however, Bonnard was concerned not with traditional idealizations of beauty, but by the peculiar angles and fragmented perspectives of life in motion; Marthe being for Bonnard a more intimate and immediate inspiration as young bathers and dancers were to Degas (see fig. 4).

Carefully composed and visually complex, this tender portrait of Bonnard’s beloved wife at her ablutions stands as one of the artist’s most remarkable bathing scenes still in private hands. A master of light and color, especially in his later years, Bonnard excelled at infusing an ethereal, almost nebulous quality into his works, verging on a sort of proto-abstraction (see fig. 5). This is an effect which Richard Diebenkorn would later harness in the luminous and grid-like abstract works of his Ocean Park series. Bonnard’s artistic legacy is apparent in these modern-day icons; recontextualizing the unusual croppings, iridescent color and angular abutments of artists like Bonnard and Matisse, Diebenkorn renders dreamily lit landscapes inspired by his own environs (see fig. 6).