Pierre Bonnard, Nu en hauteur, 1906,
Oil on canvas, 140 x 80 cm, © 2011 ProLitteris, Zurich
Painting a woman dressing or undressing has always offered an opportunity to depict female nudity. Pierre Bonnard used this convention in 1906 with his painting “Standing nude”. However, Bonnard´s intentions had nothing to do with voyeurism. Just like in most of his nude works, the model was his wife Marthe. With his use of light and shade, Bonnard produced an incredibly tender representation of her well-shaped body. At the same time he gave just as much attention to the material that Marthe holds loosely in her hand, and the walls of the tiny boudoir.
“When my friends and I pursued the studies of the Impressionists and wanted to develop them further, we sought to overcome their naturalistic colouring. Art isn't nature! We took a more severe approach to the composition. And also one was able to get much more out of the colours as a means of expression.”
That's how in 1937 Pierre Bonnard described his early approach. In 1888, at just 20 years old, he co-founded the “Nabis” artist group and remained a member until 1891. The “Nabis” artists were especially influenced by Japanese woodcarvings that had recently come into fashion, as well as the highly expressive colouring in the works of Paul Gauguin.
From the end of the 19th century Bonnard devoted himself largely to the female nude and in his resulting works produced scenes of great intimacy and serenity. However as Bonnard himself said, for him, art was never about depicting life, far more, his concern was to fill his paintings with life.