Pierre Bonnard was a member of the Nabis (Hebrew for “prophets”), a Parisian Post-Impressionist group whose aesthetic influences included Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints and whose goals called for a greater connection between art and everyday life through a synthesis of fine art and ordinary subjects. The democratic nature of printmaking was therefore ideally suited to Bonnard, as the multiple impressions of a print could be experienced by a relatively broad audience. Additionally, he benefited from technical innovations in color lithography, his primary print medium, which had led to renewed interest in printmaking in the 1890s.
Bonnard created more than one hundred twenty editioned projects between 1891 and 1947, including designs for theater programs, exhibition announcements, sheet music, book and journal illustration, and individual prints. His first poster commission, an advertisement for champagne, appeared in 1891 and was an immediate success. This was eventually followed by nine other posters, including this one for La Revue blanche, a Parisian periodical that published work by avant-garde writers and included prints by contemporary artists. This and Bonnard’s other posters bear many of the same design hallmarks: unmodulated color, a playful depiction of flattened space, and a decorative handling of silhouettes and textures.
A similar treatment of form and space is visible in The Little Laundry Girl, which depicts one of the thousands of women and girls employed by the Parisian laundry industry. It was one of twenty-two prints by various artists included in a portfolio issued by the renowned Parisian publisher Ambroise Vollard. Bonnard’s other projects with Vollard included Parallèlement, one of six books illustrated by the artist. Bonnard’s masterful integration of his sensual lithographs with Paul Verlaine’s erotic love poems has made Parallèlement a seminal example of the deluxe livre de peintre.
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His first poster commission, an advertisement for champagne, appeared in 1891 and was an immediate success (see page 13).
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 32.