In autumn and winter 2019/20 the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien presented »Pierre Bonnard - The Color of Memory«. 1867–1947), the first retrospective in Austria devoted to this enigmatic French post-Impressionist painter. The exhibition mainly concentrates on Bonnard’s work in his later years, which began to take shape after his first visit to the Côte d’Azur in 1909 and his profound experience of Mediterranean light. Bonnard had mainly lived in Paris and Central France; throughout his late works, his palette changed and the incandescent colors of the south redefined his oeuvre.
The exhibition focuses on color as central vehicle of the artist’s pictorial language. Bonnard develops and models not only moods but entire compositions by means of color harmonies and dissonances, by means of contrasts and the interplay of warm and cool tones. The sophisticated combination and opposition of color values are only one of the means for him of questioning nature’s harmony. He plays just as subtly with spatial ambiguities or “gaps” in the placement of his human figures – time and again he endeavors, as he formulates himself, to “overcome nature through art”.
Even if Bonnard’s color painting in the late pictures approaches the borders of abstraction. In contrast to the avant-garde of the early century, he never questioned the representational mode. This is probably why shortly after his death he was classified as still being a representative of a superficial harmony and “harmless” chronicler of everyday, haute-bourgeois life. In actual fact, Bonnard’s poetry of everyday life is based on a subtle confrontation with his environment. With enigmatic visualizations of things from memory perception, Bonnard ventures into a no-man’s-land between flat and three-dimensional space, color and materiality, which as contemplations of a subtle painting culture lead him to an inimitable expression of his individuality.
Bonnard’s multifaceted and constantly surprising work will be presented with many loans from international museums including the Tate in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, and renowned private collections.
The exhibition has been organized in cooperation with the Tate London and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Copenhagen.
The exhibition was on view from October 10, 2019 to January 12th, 2020.