Bonnard – (Providing Structure, Rhythm and Harmony)

Pierre Bonnard - Landscape Near Vernon - 1915 - 38 x 56 cm - oil

This landscape by Bonnard is a superb example of how a master, whether instinctively or intentionally, provides structure when developing a composition. I say this because a good artists will not permit their formulas to overrule their intuition.

There is a wonderful horizontal rectangle formed by a small white vertical at it’s left and a small bright green tree providing the right vertical,  the top is formed by a roadway running behind the tree.  When you see it and feel it’s impact on the composition, I hope you will appreciate the sophistication.  And remember the viewer does not have to see it, a master is very aware of the power of suggestion and knows we connect to shapes subconsiously.

The tree shapes are magnificent.  Try to feel the movement provided by the parallels of their shapes, particularly that wonderful squarish shape at the right edge and how it supports the other two trees.

I must also mention the harmonious movement in the sky.  There is a square like indentation in the tree at the right edge, which provides the sense of a parallel movement with the other trees and the placement of the cloud above creates the same movement in the blue sky.  I hope you can feel it as well as the wonderful integration of the other clouds with the trees.

There is another beautifully assessed rhythm leading us into the composition from the left.  The harmonious relationship of the three white verticals and the white vertical which forms the left edge of that marvelous rectangle.

Bonnard was a great master painter.


Bonnard – (Temperature)

Pierre Bonnard - The Vigil - 1921 - 96 x 125 cm - 38 x 51 in - oil on canvas

One terrific way to provide unity and harmony is to restrict your palette, so your composition will have either a cool or warm feeling.

Bonnard does this in this delightful warm painting, and the viewer immediately responds to the temperature.  We are then directed through the painting by very interesting considerations and I’m sure Bonnard is intentionally pushing our sense of harmony.

The strength of the striped half oval at the left is dominating almost to the point of disharmony and his solutions are very impressive. The two yellow stripes on the baby’s blanket. (she seems to be comforting a baby)   We can’t help moving from the semi circle to the yellow cushion on the chair, and then to those two marvelous stripes.  Do you feel their strength and how they balance the composition?  They also direct us to the yellow partial oval at the upper left, which has a wonderful dark line taking us back to the striped tablecloth.  Brilliant!

I should also point out the dark shapes at the left which hold us in the composition as well as the wonderful oval motif.  Also note the the darkish shape with subtle stripes (very important) between the chairs, connecting the dog’s gaze with the mother and her baby.

We stay with the dog’s vigil, which of course is what Bonnard wants the us to enjoy.  The sophistication of the composition permits this.


Bonnard (Integration, Rhythm and Motifs)

Pierre Bonnard - After the Meal - 1925 - 117 x 114 cm - 46 x 45 in - oil on canvas

While perusing this painting I remember asking myself.  Why is the wine bottle shape  off kilter?  And thanks to considering composition before subject, I realized the bottle shape had to be adjusted to harmonize (rhythm) and support the figure leaning over the table.

I continued to let Bonnard lead me through his poetic composition.  I love how he integrated the figure with the dark vertical connecting with the blue line in her sweater.  Then how your eye is carried down the edge of the tablecloth to her shoes. Note how the stripes on her skirt parallel the edge of the table, another rhythm.

Another beautiful integration is the dark horizontal which connects to her head.  Then you are taken along the blue line to the other figure at the left.

This figure is a superb example of his sophisticated use of motifs.  She is actually occupies a rectangle and is actually a rhythm of rectangles herself.   It may help if you blur your vision.

The rectangle motif is dominant and is supported by a sub motif of ovals

Also note how the bottom of the smaller figure’s dress integrates with the table top.

There are many other beautiful notes to enjoy such as his sophisticated use of colour.

Let me finish with the bottles.  Do you feel how the dark vertical supports them in size and value?




Bonnard (Integration and Pulls)

Pierre Bonnard - The Red Tablecloth - 1910 - 81 x 84 cm - 32 x33 in - oil on canvas

Integration or “knitting the composition together” is primary in composition and Bonnard was a master.

There are many ways to integrate and one is through shape motifs as I talked about in yesterday’s post.

Another way is by providing connections with sight lines or eye paths.

In this painting the strongest one is the vertical line running from the top down through her hand to the oval in the bowl.  Just to the right is a beautifully done subtle vertical above her right shoulder, which connects to a vertical in her blouse, then runs down the handle of the coffee pot.  It then continues down to the napkin.  Note on the next stripe how the shadow on the napkin permits your eye to continue through the napkin.

There is a superb pull for the dog, the dark shape at the figure’s left shoulder.   I find this exciting as I can feel Bonnard’s consideration, of knowing the dark value of the dog would dominate the composition without that pull.

What is a pull?  A pull is something that takes the viewer away from a strong element or the focus in a composition and Bonnard did it so well.

Also, note how the dog’s neck is integrated with a stripe on the table cloth.

Remember the poetic side of painting, which is, you are not meant to see, but rather to feel these considerations.

A last note.  The red vertical at the right.  Is it in front of the table top?

This shows us the level of sophistication of Bonnard’s work, and the connection to Cezanne and many other painters of the period, such as Matisse, Braque and Picasso.




Bonnard (Shape Motifs)

Pierre Bonnard - The Red Tablecloth -1910 - 81 x 84 cm - 32 x 33 in - oil on canvas

Pierre Bonnard’s sophisticated use of ovals is superb in this painting.

I will begin with the primary oval, the table.  When taking in the table, Bonnard brings us to the oval plate at the bottom right.  The placement of the other articles along the bottom of the painting is wonderful.   They form in essence a partial oval, which begins with the plate and continues up the dog’s back leading us to the woman head, another oval.  The other three items form another oval when connected to the articles along the bottom.

The objects are beautifully and rhythmically integrated into the composition with ovals, which may be felt more than seen.

Can you sense the harmony?

I will continue with more wonderful considerations in the next post.