Daily Art Moment: Pierre Bonnard

Image description: Pierre Bonnard, The Square at Evening, 1899, Color lithograph on cream paper, 16 x 20 ⅞ in. A large group of people walk through the square alongside stage coaches in front of large buildings with bright light shining from the windows. Heavy, layered strokes make up the images with details that are difficult to differentiate. A light-skinned woman wearing a black cape, large black hat with feathers protruding from the top, and red bows in her hair faces away from the viewer and takes up a two-thirds of the bottom of the lithograph. To the right a tall, thin, light-skinned man with a mustache and black coat and hat walks towards the left side of the lithograph. Behind him a shorter, thin woman with light skin looks downward and carefully steps forward while wearing a long black dress and a black hat. Yellow light reflects in the puddles around her. Behind her to the right two stage coaches drive off the paper. A large group of figures that cannot be distinguished mill about in front of the lighted windows of the large buildings. Four windows on the second floor are illuminated with reddish orange lights.

After a hot, dry, summer, I cheered the recent return of rain to Portland. More than 100 years ago, French artist Pierre Bonnard captured the magic of a rainy night in Paris. In the foreground, a woman with a plumed hat trimmed with red flowers moves to the right. Behind her, another parisienne gingerly steps over a puddle that reflects the gaslit shops behind her. She holds a folded umbrella in her right hand, suggesting that the rain has paused, if only for an instant. Although nominally a city scene, Bonnard imparts a sense of enclosure, domesticity, and privacy to this glimpse of Paris by night. This color lithograph will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900 opening on October 23. Come see it for yourself, and don’t forget your umbrella!

Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947), Place le soir (The Square at Evening), from the series Quelques aspects de la vie de Paris (Some Aspects of Parisian Life), 1899. Color lithograph on paper. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by members of the Collections Committee in memory of Roger Meier, 2007.75

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