Jill Newhouse Gallery takes a closer look at painting by Pierre Bonnard, 'The Little Street'
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Jill Newhouse Gallery takes a closer look at painting by Pierre Bonnard, 'The Little Street'
Place Clichy, Paris in the early 20th century.

NEW YORK, NY.- Inspired by the show Bonnard's Worlds at the Kimbell Art Museum, Jill Newhouse Gallery has taken a closer look at our painting by Bonnard, The Little Street (Boulevard des Batignolles) done in 1903.

This small complex work and others by Pierre Bonnard are on view at the gallery by appointment in December. By studying the composition of the large Place Clichy (The Green Tram) in the Kimbell show, we can see so much more in our smaller painting. Bonnard often returned to the same subject again and again. Our work is not a study for the larger painting, but rather an earlier version of what would become a familiar subject.

In 1899 Bonnard had rented a new studio at 65 Rue de Douai near the Place de Clichy in northwest Paris. In 1905, he found an apartment in an old convent building right across the street at 60 Rue de Douai, and moved in with Marthe.

Bonnard had always been enamored with the street life of Paris, with its crowded cafés and busy boulevards, filled with all types of people rushing here and there, visiting the market, hurrying home, or carrying bakery boxes and unopened umbrellas. Bonnard would rapidly draw what he saw, and then return to his studio to paint the scene from memory. In both our painting and the larger version, we see a strong female figure (Misia or Marthe?) walking assertively towards the viewer. This sets up the strong verticals of the composition. In both works, a tram is seen in the background, crossing the composition horizontally at the top; the lower half of the tram is painted green in the larger picture. Bonnard uses a similar color green in our painting, this time to depict the café (or a planted terrace in front of it) at the upper left of the composition. In both works, the buildings in the background line up horizontally, providing the only elements of the scene that are motionless.

Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947) was a prolific painter and printmaker and a founding member of the avant-garde, Post-Impressionist group Les Nabis. His unique style is characterized by an unusual vantage point, and radiating, voluptuous color. For Bonnard, the act of painting was an investigation of the physical substance of paint, and relationships between color and light throughout the canvas rectangle. Bonnard painted the familiar: rooms, objects, models, and the rituals of daily life – taking tea, feeding the cat, tending to the dinner table. His paintings began as small drawings and watercolors made on the pages of his diaries, which he worked up in the studio, often with pencil and gouache. The paintings developed slowly and over time. Rather than the object itself, it is the memory of the object that Bonnard captures.

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