Pierre Bonnard was born on 3 October 1867, in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France. He began law studies in Paris in 1887. The following year, Bonnard entered the École des Beaux-Arts, but after failing to win the Prix de Rome switched to the Académie Julien and where he met Ker-Xavier Roussel and Edouard Vuillard, who became his lifelong friends. Bonnard would also meet Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier and Félix Vallotton. Thus Bonnard gave up law to become an artist, and, after a year’s military service, he moved into a studio in Montmartre in 1890, which he shared with Denis and Vuillard. It was around this time that he joined the group of young painters he met at the Académie Julien to form Les Nabis (the prophets), who were led by Sérusier and also included Denis, Roussel, Vuillard, and others. The Nabis, influenced particularly by Paul Gauguin and Japanese prints, experimented with arbitrary colour, expressive line, a wide range of mediums, and flat, patterned surfaces.
In 1891, Bonnard had his first show at the Salon des Indépendants and exhibited in the Nabis’s earliest exhibitions at Le Barc de Boutteville. He had also meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec earlier that year. Bonnard would continue to exhibit with the Nabis until they disbanded in 1900. Over the course of the decade, he worked in a variety of mediums; for example, he frequently made posters and illustrations for La Revue blanche, and in 1895 he designed a stained-glass window for Louis Comfort Tiffany. His first solo show, at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1896, included paintings, posters, and lithographs.
Thoughout the early 20th century, Bonnard kept refining his style and continued to explore new subjects and media. In 1903, Bonnard participated in the first Salon d’Automne and the Vienna Secession, and from 1906 he was represented by Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris. For the rest of his life, Bonnard travelled abroad extensively and worked at various locations in Normandy, the Seine valley, and the south of France (he bought a villa in Le Cannet near Cannes in 1925), as well as in Paris. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised major Bonnard retrospectives in 1946 and 1964. Bonnard died on 23 January 1947, in Le Cannet, France.
Bonnard’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Kunstmuseum Basel; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; the Tate Collection, London.
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