Galerie Wildenstein, Paris (acquired from the above circa 1947)
Private Collection, Germany
Private Collection (acquired by the 1970s)
Thence by descent to the present owner
The model is captured here in a personal moment and appears to be deeply absorbed in her thoughts. Despite the impressive scale of this work, Bonnard retains the warm, personal atmosphere of his intimiste paintings, portraying his muse indulging in a private moment. At the same time, he takes pleasure in depicting her nude figure in its full glory, lit by the warm light coming from an invisible source. Bonnard treated her skin as if depicting a landscape, creating a dramatic contrast between those parts exposed to light, like her legs and shoulder, and the parts in the shadow, including her face.
Discussing Bonnard's portrayals of Marthe, Sarah Whitfield wrote: 'Marthe is almost always seen in her own domestic surroundings, and as an integral part of those surroundings. [...] In a sense many of these works are variations on the theme of the artist and his model as well as on the double portrait. This is the case even when Bonnard is not visible. [...] 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' (S. Whitfield, 'Fragments of Identical World', in Bonnard (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1998, p. 17).
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