Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia

Jan 13, 2016

Painting of woman, children, and animals in lush green garden.

Pierre Bonnard, Le Grand Jardin, 1895. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Musee d'Orsay © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Exclusive US Venue

Legion of Honor \ February 6–May 15, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (March 17, 2015)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to announce Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia, the first major international presentation of Pierre Bonnard’s work to be mounted on the West Coast in half a century. The exhibition will feature more than seventy works that span the artist’s complete career, from his early Nabi masterpieces, through his experimental photography, to the late interior scenes for which he is best known.

The exhibition celebrates Bonnard as one of the defining figures of modernism in the transitional period between impressionism and abstraction. Several themes from Bonnard’s career will emerge, including the artist’s great decorative commissions where the natural world merges with the bright colors and light of the South of France, where windows link interior and exterior spaces, and where intimate scenes disclose unexpected phantasmagorical effects.

“Bonnard’s arcadia is filled with poetry, wit, color and warmth,” said Esther Bell, curator in charge of European paintings. “This selection of highlights from his career will make clear the artist’s important role in the history of French modernism.”

Among the many significant paintings on view will be Man and Woman (1900, Musée d’Orsay), in which the artist has depicted his lifelong companion and one of his constant subjects, Marthe de Méligny. Also featured will be such masterpieces as The Boxer (Self-Portrait) (1931, Musée d’Orsay) and The Work Table (1926–1937, National Gallery of Art); and decorative panels and screens, including View from Le Cannet (1927, Musée Bonnard) and Pleasure (1906–1910, Musée d’Orsay).

Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia will offer a fresh interpretation of Bonnard’s repertoire, and a reconsideration of the artist as one of the foremost practitioners of modernism.

About the Artist
Born just outside of Paris in 1867, Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) was the son of a high-ranking bureaucrat in the French War Ministry. In 1887 he enrolled in classes at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he became a student and follower of Paul Gauguin. Gauguin’s teaching inspired a group of young painters known as Les Nabis (after the Hebrew words navi or nabi, meaning prophet), with whom Bonnard joined. By the early years of the 20th century, the Nabis had disbanded, and for the remainder of his career, Bonnard resisted affiliation with any particular school. Instead, he alternated between the themes and techniques of the Impressionists and the abstract visual modes of modernism.

Bonnard worked in many genres and techniques, including painting, drawing and photography. From the domestic and urban scenes of his early Nabi period to the great elegies of the 20th century, Bonnard’s output is grounded in a modernity that was transformed by his knowledge of works from other cultures, including Japanese woodblock prints and Mediterranean mosaics.

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Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid. Presenting Sponsors: the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, Cynthia Fry Gunn and John A. Gunn, the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums, and Diane B. Wilsey. Curator’s Circle: the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, Clare C. McEvoy Charitable Remainder Unitrust and Jay D. McEvoy Trust. Benefactor’s Circle: Lucinda B. Watson. Patron’s Circle: George and Marie Hecksher, and David A. Wollenberg. The catalogue is published with the assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment for Publications. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Visiting \ Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121 Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

For adults, tickets start at $20 and include general admission; discounts are available for seniors, students, and youths. Members and children 5 and under are free. Prices subject to change, more information is available at legionofhonor.org.

Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia accompanies the first monographic exhibition devoted to the artist to be shown in San Francisco and the first major international presentation of his work to be mounted on the West Coast in more than fifty years. Organized by the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, with the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the exhibition and publication offer a representative look of Bonnard’s oeuvre. Hardcover and softcover, 336 pages

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

Media Contacts
Erin Garcia \ egarcia@famsf.org \ 415.750.8904

Miriam Newcomer \ mnewcomer@famsf.org \ 415.750.3554