Visit to Le Musee Bonnard

Le Cannet – South of France – Autumn 2016

Pierre Bonnard 1867 – 1947 – Post Impressionist and founder of the avant-garde group of artists known as Les Nabis.

When I visit my daughter Tracey, who lives in Bar sur Loup, near Grasse in the South of France, if I am very lucky, we will go to see an exhibition at one of the many musees in the area.

So many artists congregated in the south of France, partly because of the climate, but also because of the beautiful light, so we are spoiled for choice, should it be Renoir, Chagall, Picasso, Bonnard?

Last autumn we paid a second visit to Musee Bonnard at Le Cannet. It is a beautiful, but quite small house in the middle of Le Cannet, and is devoted entirely to Pierre Bonnard’s work and life.

As it is so small, the artist’s work is quite often displayed in a themed way, and this time the title was Petite Promenade Entre Chiens & Chats. Looking at the many photographs displayed throughout the house, it seemed obvious that Pierre and his wife Marthe were almost never without either a cat or dog with them. It appeared he even allowed his favourite dog to sit on the table and eat with them, also the cats!! (Not sure about that one) He describes his dog as a basset, but it looks more like a dachshund to me.

It would seem that the animals in Bonnard’s life were not only great company to him, but also fantastic inspiration in his work, and they appear in many of his paintings. His favourite model and greatest inspiration was his wife of more than 50 years Marthe. They lived quite an enclosed life as she was not a person who was able to socialise. She preferred the company of animals to that of people, and very buy lorazepam no prescription rarely appeared in public.

When you arrive in the Musee you are directed to the top floor, climbing an absolutely beautiful white marble staircase which runs up the middle of the house, and then you make your way through each room, gradually descending each floor.

Each painting is given plenty of room to “breathe” and they are not crowded. An audio commentary is available from the curator, or you can just wander and enjoy the experience without having to listen. I love the commentary because I find I learn so much. I get lost in the wonder of it all, and think how lucky I am to have sight and hearing to take all this in.

In this themed exhibition each painting includes one of his favourite animals, and you gradually come to understand how much they meant to him and Marthe. He recalls in particular Bella, Black, Poucette and Ravageau, the basset.

After spending over two hours in the musee, I was particularly taken with two of Bonnard’s little sayings, which have stayed with me “Je voudrais arriver devant les jeunes peintres de l’an 2000 avec des ailes de papillon.”

“I would like to arrive in front of the young artists in the year 2000 on the wings of a butterfly.” Or as we might say ,” I wish I could be a fly on the wall in 50 years’ time to see what young people are painting”.

The other saying I loved was “Draw your Pleasure, Paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly”. Wise words from a very unusual man who I felt I got to know a little better through his art and love of his animals.

We completed our day with moules and frites and a glass of local wine, who could ask for more?

Helena Anderson