After his early years as a member in the Nabi group, Bonnard pursued his own path as a painter, and his unique techniques and remarkable range of innovations continue to provide inspiration to many artists working today. As stated by art historian and critic Barry Schwabsky in a catalogue essay on the exhibition, it is “Bonnard’s unwillingness to fix himself or his viewers in place that attracts so many artists to his way of working.” Beginning with Bonnard’s influence on color field painters such as Mark Rothko through the lyrical abstractionists of the following generation, Bonnard’s diverse influence extends to a broad and unexpected range of artists working today, including Alex Katz, John Armleder, Lois Dodd, Miquel Barceló, Howard Hodgkin, Peter Doig, Andrew Cranston, Hayley Barker, Whitney Bedford, and Allison Katz.
Bonnard’s bold experiments as a colorist, weaving together intense, vivid tones and using contrasting, complementary colors, are immediately evident in his paintings. His singular pursuit of capturing the experience of optical perception, and the role of memory and experience in observation, are perhaps more slowly revealed through his compositional innovations.
By emptying the interiors of his compositions, what Bonnard termed a “void in the middle,” the viewer is forced to slowly pay attention to perceive the images hidden at the margins of his canvases. These out of focus, slowly revealed forms capture the wavering uncertainty of peripheral vision. Bonnard’s paintings are unfixed, mutable, and in flux; the viewpoints in his compositions are shifting and his open-ended, dissolving, forms lack internal boundaries. His seemingly unfinished, ambiguous images lack resolution, requiring the participation of the viewer to bring them to fruition. This slowly suspended process of reconstructing images through memory and the passage of time achieves what Bonnard spoke of as a “halting of time.”
The exhibition includes several institutional loans from museums including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, hardcover catalogue with essays by noted art historians and critics Barry Schwabsky and Sarah Whitfield, and distributed by Rizzoli.