Monday, August 31, 2009

"The important thing is to remember what most impressed you and put it on the canvas as fast as possible." Pierre Bonnard

"The museums are full of uprooted paintings," Bonnard once said. His pictures were created out of a combination of observation of very particular places, memory, and intuition, but are also the result of "the inner processes that give shape to experience over time." From what I've been able to gather, he was more interested in the act of perceiving than anything else, including the objects perceived.

Reading about him, and noticing the woman who is practically fused with the vase of flowers, I guess it's not too surprising to hear he had no interest in "mere detail." His primary interest was in the act of seeing, "the gaze." He would go out for a walk, chat with acquaintances along the way, and then make quick notes on a paper he kept in his po
cket, always on the look-out for what he called "the idea" or "the seduction," something that would draw his attention.

The everyday, his familiar surroundings, usually drew that gaze. According the Julian Bell in Bonnard, his gaze "would often include large stretches of nothing in particular--a slowly reced
ing wall, say--between the objects that are the natural foci of interest. Dwelling on those expanses brings the gaze itself in to focus." Above left is Dining Room from the Garden (from Writing about Art.)

Bonnard was very wary of allowing any one face or object to be painted
in too much detail, lest it run away with the picture. He would "hold back involving elements," and instead buildup very gradually a whole field of colors juxtapositions - oranges, lavenders, pinks, yellows- covering every last scrap of canvas.

Talk about not worrying about detail: Bonnard once had a visitor point out that the figure in a painting of his had two right feet. He didn't change it: "After all, somehow it seems to me better like that. It makes an interesting shape."

Sometimes you can look at a painting of his for some time before you even notice a figure there in the background, often in the corner.

Is there a clear center of attention in your works?
How much attention to you giv
e to the strength of its pull or its ability to dominate the painting more than you might like?

Especially in beginning art classes, it seems there's a dangerous and unnecessary emphasis on the center of interest. Clearly it was not a concern for Bonnard.

Here's one I'm still noodling over, trying to decide whether or not to let these cars run away with the composition. Maybe it's better to let the indistinct buildings carry equal weight. Or how about a fifth tire on the car?

1 comment:

  1. Suzanne,

    Intriguing! Your comments aren't the obvious things to say about Bonnard -- of course! I now get to think about detail vs the diffuse in 'carrying a composition', for at least the rest of the day while I go back to 'the drawing board', and render my designs.

    AND -- I love your sharing your painting with warm, forward moving mixture of textured hues, in the context of Bonnards' moving, saturated light. Delight!

    Thank you for enriching my day!