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Summer in Normandy

Painting, 1912, 114×128 cm
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Description of the artwork «Summer in Normandy»

French painter Pierre Bonnard spent the summer of 1912 on his villa "Ma Roulette" near the city of Vernon. Bonnard’s fate had many sharp turns and tragic twists: the artist was meant to go through two world wars, Nazi occupation of Paris, famine years. But that summer was cloudless in every way. Having clutched an easel and taken his family, Bonnard run away from the capital’s fuss into province where, at bliss and comparative idleness, he met what art critics have called the prime of his decorative manner.

Bonnard, one of the most important colorists of the 20th century, has sometimes been vociferously criticized. For instance, Picasso regarded Bonnard's heightened sense of color as a kind of a congenital infirmity.

«Bonnard … [is] not really a modern painter: he obeys nature, he doesn't transcend it,”- Picasso said. «Painting can’t be done that way. Painting isn't a question of sensibility; it's a matter of seizing the power, taking over from nature, not expecting her to supply you with information and good advice. That’s why I like Matisse. Matisse is always able to make an intellectual choice about colours. Bonnard is the end of an old idea, not the beginning of a new one.”
By the way, Matisse himself regarded Bonnard to be a genius.

«Summer in Normandy» contains everything for what some experts criticized Pierre Bonnard and others worshiped him. He really was never a pioneer, a conqueror, a tamer of nature but rather its faithful gardener. At a place where others experienced a big catharsis, Bonnar was building a terrace, placing chaise-longues, and seating his customary companions – wife Marthe and dachshund Ubu. He proposed the audience to view a safely bourgeois attraction and feel a cozy contemplative joy from the picture where a sun is shining, leaves are emerald green, and shadows are oily dense. Pierre Bonnard was not in awe of nature but their relationship was fiduciary and intimate. He felt himself at home at plein air.

That's why his grass is laying like a carpeting, the tree crowns resemble cushions from a Paris boudoir, and his sky is like fancy wallpapers or a stage backdrop. English writer Julian Barnes suggested that Bonnard remains the “painter of the great indoors, and even when [he] went outdoors [he was] painting interiors.” No velour leaf will move, no accidental little ripples will stir the grass, no heavy cloud will tremble – this is what we call a renowned Bonnard statics. The landscape is sprawled, squeezed by the sunlight as if by a divine paperweight. Summer day in Normandy froze like an amber drop. 20th century should wait with its hustle-bustle and modernistic ideas because one can as well “seize the power, taking over from nature” after siesta.

Author: Andrew Zimoglyadov
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape, Portrait

Style of art: Nabi

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1912

Size: 114×128 cm

Artwork in selections: 6 selections

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