1914, Nature morte aux cerises
is a beautifully orchestrated celebration of color and life. Infused with the vitality of the red fruit at its center, this typical intimiste
scene perfectly evokes an atmosphere of sunlit, rural abundance, whilst the flattened and tilted perspectives illustrate the extent of Bonnard’s visual experimentation. As for many of the artists of his generation, such as Renoir, the still life was an important part of Bonnard’s oeuvre. He painted items that were familiar to him, often returning to the same objects time and again, suggesting they were objects that were part of the fabric of his everyday life and work. This familiarity was an important element of Bonnard’s practice as he preferred to work from memory with these objects acting as cognitive stimuli. Dita Amory describes the effect of this process: "As Bonnard painted his memory of the still life in the other room, he edited out extraneous information, uncluttering the composition. What he rendered permanent was the experience of passing through, say, the dining room set for breakfast…" (Dita Amory in Pierre Bonnard. The Late Still Lifes and Interiors
(exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 11).
This process reflected Bonnard’s investigative approach to painting which he summarized in a letter to his nephew Charles Terrasse in 1927: "The eye of the painter gives human value to objects, reproduces things as a human eye sees them. And this vision is mobile
. And this vision is variable
... The eye sees distant masses as having an almost linear aspect, without relief, without depth. But near objects rise towards it. The sides trail away. And these vanishing trails are sometimes rectilinear—for what is distant—sometimes curved—for planes that are near. The vision of distant things is a flat vision. It is the near planes that give the idea of the universe as the human eye sees it" (quoted in Bonnard. The Work of Art: Suspending Time
(exhibition catalogue), Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris, 2006, p. 57).
Nature morte aux cerises further highlights Bonnard’s masterful use of color as a compositional tool. The painting sings with vivid energy, yet the composition is unified by the clear luminosity of the coloring that pervades the canvas. The effect this produces is characterized by Ursula Perucchi-Petri: "The intricately woven tapestry of color with its warp and weft of figures and objects draws proximity and distance together in a vibrant fabric. This lends the space a floating aspect…" (Ursula Perucchi-Petri in Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 202).