Lot 24
  • 24

PIERRE BONNARD | Nu assis, jambe pliée

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Nu assis, jambe pliée
  • stamped Bonnard (upper left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 122 by 66cm.
  • 48 by 26in.
  • Painted circa 1909.


Estate of the artist 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


Jean & Henry Dauberville, Bonnard. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1974, vol. IV, no. 01964, illustrated p. 294

Catalogue Note

In Nu assis, jambe pliée Bonnard depicts Marthe, his longtime companion and muse who inspired a majority of his paintings of nudes in an interior setting. Here the model is presented in full view, with her leg extending beyond the picture plane. Like Degas, who radically cropped his images of bathers in a manner resembling Japanese prints, Bonnard employs a similar method of establishing the boundary between the viewer and the figure. With this pictorial device he encourages the observer to imagine the domestic space beyond the scope of the canvas. There was a fine line between openness and vulnerability that was inherent in these compositions of nudes, and here Bonnard's careful attention to the arrangement of space ensures the delicate balance of the two. 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).