Bonnard’s use of colour and light has long held an interest for me. I have explored his work with active studies, visiting galleries and reading many books. Trying to unpick like a detective how Bonnard paints what he does. Using this knowledge in my own work with varying degrees of success. I have come to realise that his style or his unique artistic handwriting is difficult to replicate and would I really want to do that? The feeling created by Bonnard painting is what I want to achieve more than anything. The glow of the light, the colour combinations, warm and cool, early morning and evening light. The mystery of the hidden figure and the representation of domestic life.
Pierre Bonnard, Coffee, 1915 a large painting 1m x 73cm held at the Tate gallery and well worth a visit when it is displayed.
In this blog post I am going to discuss the big ideas I have learnt from Bonnard over the years and how my passion for his work has influenced my own. Its not about copying his style or reproducing his work its about getting into the reasons why he paints. The feelings that Bonnard is able to create with just a canvas and oil paint.
I particularly like the way Bonnard crops his images to create interest and intrigue. The half figure at the edge of the canvas, the table leading us into the picture, the window with a view into the distance. It is well known that Bonnard was keen on photography and it is this that has influenced this type of cropped composition. Value structure is also important to Bonnard and its always interesting to see his painting in black and white. Bonnard’s composition is often compartmentalised by colour, cool windows, warm interiors. I have found these ideas really interesting and have used these ideas in my own paintings.
Bonnard worked from memory when completing his paintings. He initially made drawings for his compositions based on value and tone and used these to plan the compositions. When he came to paint he used colour from memory. I find this to be very liberating as a painter and it has allowed me to be far braver with my colour choices. Bonnard chose colours to create feeling, mood and a connection with his subject matter. Bonnard said, ‘
Bonnard is the master of colour. his use and understanding of colour theory is deep and intuitive. He uses complimentary colours, cool and warm colours to create structure and composition in his work. Seeing a Bonnard painting up close you see the many layers of paint and the tapestry of colours. Painting in this style take a long time to paint and it is well documented that Bonnard would take years over paintings adding and adjusting even when the paintings were hung in an exhibition! His painting have a shimmer and this is his use of colours of equal tone or equiluminance.
Bonnard painting are full of joy. The Nabis movement wanted the emotion or feeling to be the most important part of the painting. I have found that this has been the biggest influence on my work. I paint because I enjoy the process and creating painting which give others joy is a real achievement. Bonnard paints images of the things he loves, his wife and domestic life he enjoys the world around him and his paintings show how he felt.