On the surface, Bonnard's paintings appear to gently extend the art of the Impressionists. Looked at closely, they are far more extreme. At first sight, their subject matter is solely the behavior of people and the effects of light in scenes from what often looks like an intensely private existence. To spend time in front of these paintings, however, is to see them change. Figures and objects will move in and out of the viewer's attention, as each painting seems to present an analysis of the processes of seeing and remembering.

Bonnard painted from memory, aided only by small sketches as memory aids. The process of making a painting would extend over months, even years. He was deeply conscious of the complexities of visual perception: He carefully plotted his paintings, so that what is seen in them depends upon the active participation of the viewer, as happens when we perceive scenes in the world. Bonnard encourages us to take time over his paintings, to be aware that some things will be hidden in them, and that some things in them will be difficult to identify. He encourages us to approach them with curiosity, for pleasure, and the desire to understand.

This section of the Bonnard Web site has eight sub-sections. The first two--Early Works, and After Impressionism--illustrate the unfolding of Bonnard's art from around 1890 until the late 1920s. The remaining six sections--Still Life, Landscapes, Bathers, Interiors, Late Bathers, Self Portraits--show his later paintings grouped according to subject matter.

This text, by Maria del Carmen González, Elementary and Middle School Coordinator, and John Elderfield, Chief Curator At Large and Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, is adapted from the brochure and wall text produced for the Bonnard exhibition.
©1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York