One hundred and forty six

The Table

1925 by Pierre Bonnard
Tate

Bonnard’s work is the freehanded style of many French painters working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. We can liken his work perhaps mostly to Toulouse-Lautrec, who he met in 1891. The sketch-like approach to paint is unmistakable, small strokes articulating life across a page; indeed in colour as well as style this painting reminds of Toulouse-Lautrec’s much earlier The Two Friends (postcard eighty-six). The focus on unaware figures, from the subtle viewpoint of life everyday, is obvious here as we watch the bent figure eating at the end of the table piled high. Her hair falls over her face; intimacy is not gained through delicacy of facial features, but from our accepted observation, our allowed presence in this scene of comfortability. Though not actually recognisable to us, the room breaths from an illusion of familiarity, such is the habitual scene. The table is clothed in the freshness of white while the surrounding kitchen is warm in deep pinks and brown, flesh-like it encompasses the scene as a womb, the built naturalism of everyday life. The perspective in the scene is unlikely, focusing on each and every object laid on the table; it is not unlike Cézanne’s approach to his apples, concentrating on an object’s shape absolutely so as to lose anything of its effect. Bonnard’s mixture of concentration and restraint inevitably brings nostalgia, but far from being wistful it is an atmosphere of pleasance; a memory that, though it is not our own, resounds.

 

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