Bonnard, palette as source of pictorial ideas

September 29, 2013

Bonnard, Pierre - La Salle a Manger a la Campagne - Nabis - Oil on canvas - Still Life - Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Minneapolis, MN, USA

Pierre Bonnard   La salle a manger a la campagne  Source

In 1998, the London Tate had a comprehensive show of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings. Looking at the catalogue I see that the exhibition filled no less than 10 rooms. I remember moving through these rooms being immersed in the wonderful colours of these paintings.

I bought the accompanying book of the exhibition , ‘Bonnard colour and light’ by Nicholas Watkins and have recently come back to it. There is a curious item in the section on Bonnard’s language of colour describing how the artist felt about his palettes:

For Bonnard a palette did more than establish a colour scheme and an overall tonality of a painting; it was in a sense an embryo painting. Pictorial ideas would develop out of his responses to the actual colours put down on the palette. …On a studio visit in 1943, André Giverny noted that he kept a separate plate, an improvised palette, for each painting. ‘Why destroy a series of ideas which could be useful?’, Bonnard observed.

The idea of establishing a palette as a tool for determining the tone of a painting was new to me. I’d been wanting to adapt some of Bonnard’s glowing warm/cool contrasts to one of my next fruit bowl paintings, hopefully breaking me out of my fixation (in my oil painting work at any rate) with reproducing colours realistically.

This is the acrylic underpainting. (This painting was completed, by the way, before I started the 37 minute series, and already has some of their freshness.)

Jantine's  underpainting

The next stage was completed fairly quickly and left a bit rough without reworking it.

Interim stage

Interim stage

Completed painting below- looks like it loses a little a little strength perhaps, partially due to different lighting when shooting the photos.

I wanted to capture the blue glass bowl and reflections.

Jantine's  oil on canvas board

Jantine’s oil on canvas board

palette for this painting

palette for this painting

9 Responses to “Bonnard, palette as source of pictorial ideas”

  1. Michael Davidson Says:

    …nice ; the 3 together ; the palette; drawing and painting
    love it

  2. Getting increasingly interested in your post text – need to come back and read at leisure, but first need to make time for some leisure!

    • hey outside, glad my post text is communicating. Usually when things begin resonating it means the same things are in you, and maybe it took some comment or outside event to make it possible for you to recognise them.

      You could always come back and read them and call it work 🙂

  3. I never heard of Bonnard! Love the painting! Thank you for introducing me to this painter!

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      You’re welcome, Annie. My introduction to his work was when I lived in Pgh, one of his paintings of his wife in the bathtub hangs in the Carnegie Museum of Modern Art. The colors are insane (in a good way). I go and visit it every time I’m ‘home’.

  4. Stunning work! I spotted your comment on Liam Rainsford’s blog and decided to have a look at yours. I’m so glad I did. I’m amazed at the range of colours for this piece – like a rainbow on a palette! 🙂


    • Thanks Marion, I think the clear blue underpainting did a lot to make this one glow. It is one of the good ones, the ones that you can’t plan for, only say thank you for when they come. And they only come by plodding on through all the ones that don’t sing.

  5. Happy to be here discovering a lot of amazing things. I like to commend your artistic talent and to encourage you to keep going.

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