Following the invasion of France and the Occupation of Paris in 1940, Bonnard continued to paint the domestic interiors and daily rituals of the Villa Bosquet. This intimate still life of apples and oranges recalls the simplicity of Bonnard’s life and studio during this period, which his nephew Charles Terrasse described as a “monastic cell”.
The arrangement of fruit upon a blue and white striped tablecloth and a red felt runner in ‘Nature morte, fruits’ reveals Bonnard’s daring abandonment of depth and perspective. Using the horizontal lines of the table and runner to ground the composition, Bonnard is able to give a sense of weight and presence to the pieces of fruit. Bonnard’s vivid palette in this work also evokes the influence of Cézanne and his theory that a painting should be defined by colour and tonal ordering. Echoing Cézanne’s dazzling still lifes in which the artist proclaimed, “With an apple I want to astonish Paris”. Bonnard explained to Pierre Courthion in 1933 “…now I recognize the need to give painting foundation, weight, plasticity. I am trying to avoid gaps, accents of colour, little motifs. The whole surface of the painting must be coloured”.
‘Nature morte, fruits’ was painted towards the end of Bonnard’s career at a time of great personal tragedy and professional success. Following the death of his brother in 1941, Bonnard was devastated by the death of his wife Marthe in 1942 after which he kept her bedroom forever locked. In the aftermath of the war and personal grief, Bonnard began to exhibit again in Paris at the Galerie Bernheim Jeune and in 1948 MoMA hosted a major posthumous retrospective of his career.
Estate of the artist
Private Collection, USA
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Bonnard, 1966, no.222 (as dating from 1935)
Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet, Pierre Bonnard, 1966, no.31 illus.
Sao Paulo, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo, Exposicao Pierre Bonnard, 1972, no.29 illus.
Jean and Henry Dauberville, Pierre Bonnard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1940 - 1947 et Supplément 1887 - 1939, Paris, no.1617, illus. p.51