Pierre Bonnard
(Fontenay-aux-Roses, Seine, 1867-1947, Le Cannet)
The Luncheon, 1899
Oil on cardboard, 54.5 x 70.5 cm
Signed & dated upper left: Bonnard 1899
Dauberville 216
The thirty-two-year-old Pierre Bonnard, who paints "The Luncheon" in 1899, is already in possession of his full powers. "Le nabi japonard" (so called by Ranson for his enthusiasm for the Japanese), with his passion for tartans, has been transcended, and he is no longer obsessed by Maurice Denis’ "theories", he is discovering himself. And yet nothing is forgotten, everything is utilized. The picture remains for him a "surface plane", as Denis had insisted, and the ornamental still plays a dominant role, if more subtle, more sublimated. We need only look back at Monet’s "Dinner", with almost the same subject, to ascertain the great change in style: there the freestanding table with the guests beneath the lamp as a space-and-light problem, here the semicircular shape of the bisected table folded up as it were on to the picture surface from the bottom; the picture is further articulated into horizontals and verticals by wainscoting and a mirror in the central axis; this picture surface is the medium of precious, darkly glowing colours, the richly shaded blue, most brightly illuminated by the white tablecloth, and the complementary orange in the fruit. The main problem ist that of colour in the plane of the picture, and that ever since 1888 (Pont-Aven), this is stressed by the total suppression of the individuality of the people represented, who are decoratively integrated in the whole, which nearly reaches the point of jesting in the approximation of the heads to the wallpaper pattern. The painting was done in the artist’s parents’ house, "Le Clos", in Grand-Lemps in the Dauphiné; shown are Bonnard’s grandmother and his sister with her children.