|Most representational artists work on the assumption that objects and people face you squarely, that you see them immediately, and you have all the time in the world to gaze at them. Bonnard, however, was interested in the way that things are seen out of the corner of the eye and are felt at the edges of consciousness. This is never more evident than in his interiors. He relies on the fact that, at first, one's eyes do tend to jump around a rather limited "scanpath" of stimuli at the center of the visual field; how quickly the eyes take in other stimuli depends on how much these various points of focus call attention to themselves.|
Bonnard camouflages things to varying degrees to delay our perception of them to different degrees. In this way he recreates something analogous to suddenly catching sight of something you hadn't noticed or to puzzle to see something when the light is dim or when it dazzles you. What is delayed to our perception are often images of women--specifically, images of Marthe. This makes one wonder whether by making her, at first, elusive and unavailable to our sight, Bonnard is painting her elusiveness and unavailability to him. In any event, there is surely something almost hallucinatory about Bonnard's presentation of interiors as luminous places filled with familiar objects that have been looked at so long that they start to become unfamiliar--and that do become unfamiliar the longer you look at them.
|©1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York