Pierre Bonnard – The Colour of Memory – Tate 24.4.19

The colour of memory – cf Cavafy, seeing and feeling through the prism of memory?

Big relatable small dog mood

Lots of paintings of his girlfriend and eventual wife De Méligny in the bath, dressing, in daily activities – lots of nudes – big time male gaze. Exhibition tried to claim that his ‘unusual’ choices of pose are indicative of his interests in and use of photography, and the impact of snapshots on his framing and composition. “Interest in photography and its ability to capture a casual moment.” Are his arrangements of nudes really that unusual?? By contrast, I felt like a lot of his figures appeared very stiff and inhuman, and maybe that’s because of his reliance on photography rather than drawing from life.

Love the ‘individual use of colour’ and the impact of the fauves on his palettes:

Very interested in the contrast between two paintings from 1917: A Village In Ruins Near Ham and Summer. The concept of both painting records of ruin and destruction at the same time and trying to depict a ‘vision of peace that all hoped was to come.’ Depicting crisis and hope simultaneously. You don’t have to pick whether you are an artist who depicts cruel reality or an artist who depicts only naive peace and hope. Also, I feel that I understand/relate to the emotional colour palettes in these paintings: blues, greens, peaches for peace, reds and purples for war and destruction.

Cf Schiele painting landscapes from memory, and my shock at finding it out

Working method: Bonnard would work on multiple canvases at a time, on canvases just pinned to the wall (not stretched on a frame), so that he could roll them up to transport them and thus work on them for many months (or years) at a time in a variety of environments. ‘This meant that the canvases developed as independent and self-contained entities. Whether addressing the domestic interior, still-life, or landscape, Bonnard needed to summon the experience up in memory, making him acutely aware of the passage of time.’ [quoted from the exhibition booklet] It also means the paintings contain layers of influence from a variety of multiple contemporary environments to the action of painting. Painted through the prism of memory and of multiple contexts.

Only paints in the studio so as not to lose the idea in the object. Interesting perspective. I tend to think that the subject of the work (and my emotional interaction with it) is what drives the work – never mind the work getting lost in it, it’s actually what creates the work.

“I am just beginning to understand what it is to paint. A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, and one in which to practise his art.” Cf T S Eliot advising Seferis that a poet ought to have another job, space where he is not writing to take the pressure off his writing and space for the art to grow itself.

The Studio With Mimosa 1939-46

‘His heightened combination of colours was guided by what he called “the first emotion” prompted by the scene.’ – I won’t do it if I can’t feel it.

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