Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bonnard at Musee d'Orsay

As of right now, my favorite museum visit was Musee d'Orsay. It was very hard to choose which painting to single out for analyzation, but I ended up going with Pierre Bonnard's "La Partie de Croquet". I chose this particular painting for two reasons. The first being the fact that I didn't know much about his background, and also because I was curious about his consistent use of patterns that flatten the space in his paintings.

Some of my observations while viewing the painting include:
  • Overall sense of space seems ambiguous.
  • Patterns used never disrupt themselves to show folds in fabric or mass to the figures. This flattens and simplifies shapes.
  • Certain areas in the painting (Particularly the patterned figures) primarily use colors that carry the same value of the foliage in the background, camouflaging the figures.
  • Overwhelming color palate is green with shapes of white making up the movement of the composition.
  • There doesn't seem to be any shadows in between the figures and the ground. In the areas where the entire figures are shown they don't seem to be grounded or carrying any weight. They seem to be floating rather than standing on any surface. (Adds to the ambiguity of space)
  • However, there seems to be some sense of light within the painting where highlights in the foliage happen and in the slight color shifts within the clothing of the dancers in the background.

After doing some research I learned that Bonnard was involved in a group of young Avant Guard artists in the post-impressionist part of the 20th century called "Les Nabis." (The Prophets) The name came from the idea that this group of artists was trying to revitalize painting in a similar way that the ancient prophets were trying to revitalize Israel. Some main points about Les Nabis are:
  • A work of art is the end product and the visual expression of an artists synthesis of nature in personal aesthetic, metaphors, and symbols.
  • Heavily influential to the early 20th century development of abstract, non-objective art.
  • Their goal (along with many others in the 20th century) was to integrate art and daily life.
  • La partie de croquet features specific people from Bonnard's life making it relatively biographical.
  • Bonnard liked Japanese paintings and drawings and the use of flattening patterns in his work demonstrate that influence.
  • "We were trying to go further than the impressionists and their naturalist impression of color... After all, art is not nature" -Pierre Bonnard
The last two bullet points make sense when I look at his paintings especially in his sometimes arbitrary-seeming accents of colors in the painting. (Ultramarine blue lines in the grass and foliage and a burnt orange lining the edges of the branches) Those color choices in combination with the heavy use of flattening patterns make an effort to take the painting further away from "nature".

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