Opening at the National Gallery of Victoria in June, the blockbuster Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition will feature more than 100 works by Pierre Bonnard - a leading 20th-century French painter celebrated for his iridescent palette.
Curated by Paris's Musee d'Orsay in partnership with the NGV, Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi will be presented within a contemporary scenography by architect and designer India Mahdavi.
The paintings of Bonnard (1867-1947) depict intimate domestic interiors, natural landscapes and urban scenes with subtlety, wit and a sensuous approach to colour and light.
Renowned for his use of colour to convey emotions, Bonnard was declared by his close friend Henri Matisse as "a great painter, for today and definitely also for the future".
The exhibition brings late 19th- and early 20th-century France to life through paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative objects by Bonnard, shown alongside early cinema by the Lumiere brothers and artworks by Bonnard's early contemporaries Maurice Denis, Felix Vallotton and Edouard Vuillard.
Mahdavi, described by The New Yorker as a "virtuoso of colour" and "possessor of perfect chromatic pitch", will envelop Bonnard's works in an environment that complements the artist's distinct use of colour and texture and evokes the wistful domestic intimacy for which his paintings are renowned.
The exhibition features loans from the Musee d'Orsay, which holds the world's largest collection of Bonnard's work, along with significant loans from other museums and private collections in France, the UK, the US and Australia.
International lenders include the Tate in London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Art Institute of Chicago.
These loans will be presented alongside important works from the NGV's own collection, including Bonnard's early masterpiece, La Sieste (Siesta), 1900, previously in the collection of Gertrude Stein and acquired by the NGV in 1949.
The exhibition also features a work recently acquired by Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and family for the NGV: an intimate domestic scene by Bonnard's friend and contemporary in the Nabi circle, Vuillard.
It will also feature and contextualise Vuillard's painting of Bonnard's wife, Marthe Bonnard with a dog, 1907, acquired by the NGV in 1955.
Tracing Bonnard's emerging artistic practice in the 1890s, the exhibition starts with the artist's paintings and prints recording Parisian street life, which contain rich and often satirical observations of what Bonnard called the "theatre of the everyday".
The exhibition then follows the artist's career in the first decades of the 20th century, when his perspective shifted to a more domestic vision of the life he shared with his wife.
The landscape became a primary subject for Bonnard from about 1910. His passion for it was influenced by his friendship with the painter Claude Monet, a near neighbour in the Normandy countryside until Monet's death in 1926.
For Bonnard, landscape painting was a hybrid genre and often included glimpses of interiors and still-lifes.
From the 1920s onwards, Bonnard's life shifted largely to the south of France, leading to the preponderance of highly coloured, iridescent landscapes capturing the light and life there.
It is these last paintings for which Bonnard is most celebrated and the exhibition features many examples.
Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi, June 9-October 8, NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Admission $33 (members $27)/$29/$11; seniors card discount on Wednesdays.
For tickets and information, click HERE
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