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Meadow in Bloom, c. 1935

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Artist Bonnard, Pierre

Meadow in bloom offers a luxuriant landscape,' probably of
Bonnard's garden at his home Le Bosquet in Le Cannet. Here, in
contrast to the exhilarating jumble of The Garden, c. 1936, Bonnard created a more carefully tended, not nearly so agitated, image of nature, including pruned plantings and what appears to be a plowed field. The vegetation is cultivated and is enjoyed by someone. "There is hardly any Bonnard landscape as deserted as it first seems," wrote Jean Clair, "only showing itself to be inhabited after a lengthy look. A landscape existed for him, not in itself, but in the function of a human presence, no matter where he might tuck it." In this case the human presence is the woman in white in the upper left centre of the composition.
Although Bonnard usually distorted his subject matter for pictorial purposes, Meadow in Bloom is, nevertheless, distinctive in his landscape oeuvre. Instead of creating a semblance of spatial recession, Bonnard tipped the field upward in a fashion that can be described as at once stylistically primitive and advanced. Bonnard analysed the methods of naive artists in 1936: "Sunday painters: their naive love of objects leads them to discoveries. Techniques correspond to necessary artifice, the requirements of nature causing a limitation." As if momentarily copying the practice of the dabbler, in order to carefully inventory and record all of the plant types observed in the garden as well as the activities of both the hobbyist and the farmer, Bonnard eliminated shadows, employed a mininaturistic approach, and artificially flattened the space into a register of horizontal planes. The flattening of space is, of course, a technique also employed by sophisticated painters. Bonnard wrote in 1935: "Planes through colour. Rough out with colour contrasts." Hence, we move from brown to lavender in the lower section, then to the large field of green, a row of purple flowers and dark-green, spiky plants in the middle ground, then to a pattern of alternating orange and dark purple bands above. Bonnard knowingly distinguished himself from his contemporaries, who finally sought to dispense with subject matter. He wrote in 1934, "When one distorts nature, it still remains underneath, unlike purely imaginative works." For Bonnard, subject and structure meld with neither being compromised; he is not interested in making "purely imaginary works," that is, complete abstractions.
If Meadow in Bloom appears exceptional in comparison with Bonnard's late landscapes, it is altogether reminiscent of his contemporaneous still-lifes and interiors. In its exaggerated perspective, with the green plain a kind of terrace poised precipitously above the plowed field, the composition resembles many in which a tilted tabletop or floor is seen. Too, the juxtaposition of the curious brickwork in the upper left with the field recalls the patterns of tile work side by side with shutters in so many backgrounds of his figurative paintings. It would appear, then, that Meadow in Bloom is a unique attempt by Bonnard to apply the compositional arrangement of his domestic environments to a landscape.


c. 1935

Institution The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 90.2 x 90.5 cm













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