Exhibition: Pierre Bonnard

Matisse called Pierre Bonnard “one of the greatest colourists” – this would immediately interest me in his work.  But added interest as the curators Matthew Gale and Helen O’Malley give us a walkthrough summary of the current exhibition: “The C C Land Exhibition: Pierre Bonnard: the colour of Memory” (23 Jan – 6 May 2019).


I’ve been aware of Bonnard’s work for a while, familiar with the gorgeous colours in which he painted the light-filled bathroom while his wife soaked in the bath, as part of her medical treatment.  But I was amazed to see the First World War trenches painted by him.  And also that some of his pictures were shown without frames – which made them suddenly seem so modern (see below) – they were painted in the 1920s, but without a frame, they could have been painted last year.

Bonnard, Tate, Exhibition, 2019
Tate exhibition on Bonnard

Slow looking

The curator Matthew Gale makes an interesting point in this brief 5 minute introduction:

“With Bonnard, you know it’s been painted over four or five years, so an accumulation of multiple experiences”.  And so, the curators are staging “slow looking” visits to the pictures, encouraging people to take a long time to look through and over the pictures.

Creative Takeaway

Is there anything we can take from this, into our own creative practice?

The curators point out that Bonnard took multiple sketches from life, daily, and then selected from these the images which became the finished paintings.  This made the pictures worth slow looking – they don’t reveal their whole story or outlook immediately, in a brash way.

So – we can try making daily sketches – whether that is in poetry, lines, musical threads, colour threads – and then work these into singular finished pieces.


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