Bonnard by Bonnard, Pierre

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Even Natanson’s friends later admitted that at times they had doubts about whether they could trust a person who decorated his home with works by Bonnard and Vuillard. Natanson’s printed reminiscences of Bonnard give perhaps one of the best pen-portraits of the artist. “Bonnard, when I first met him, was a gaunt young man who sometimes stooped. 7 cm Private collection 46 47 He had very white slightly protruding front teeth, was timid and short-sighted. His dark brown rather thin side-whiskers curled slightly; perched on his nose, very close to his eyes with the dark pupils, was a small pince-nez in an iron frame, as was the fashion at the close of the nineteenth century.

Landscape in the Dauphiné c. 5 x 56 cm Hermitage, St. Petersburg 44 45 Natanson’s personal support for the artists was also of no small importance. He was as young as the artists whom he backed and was not afraid to follow his own inclinations. Even Natanson’s friends later admitted that at times they had doubts about whether they could trust a person who decorated his home with works by Bonnard and Vuillard. Natanson’s printed reminiscences of Bonnard give perhaps one of the best pen-portraits of the artist.

Nude with Black Stockings c. 1900 Oil on panel, 59 x 43 cm Private collection, on loan to City of Sheffield Art Galleries 52 53 Bonnard’s humour was perhaps not always taken as harmless. The Russian artist Alexander Benois said that his acquaintance with the painter in the late 1890s was short-lived because Bonnard’s specifically French esprit gouailleur (mocking wit) made him feel ill at ease. But Benois’s reaction is exceptional. There was nothing of the born joker about Bonnard, and as he grew older he became increasingly reserved, even somewhat distrustful of others.

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