Pierre Bonnard: Portrait de Madame Hessel ou La Dame en Rouge (1901)

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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Portrait de Madame Hessel ou La Dame en Rouge (1901),
110 x 79.9 cm., 43 ¼ x 31 ½ in., signed and dated ‘Bonnard 1901’ (upper right)
oil on board laid down on cradled panel , Source: Christie’s

Portrait de Madame Hessel

Christie’s writes that while Pierre Bonnard “excels in representations – sometimes very intimate ones – of his wife Marthe, at the table, in bed or as she dressed,… he remains an excellent portraitist for other models within his close entourage…” They continue:

‘Portrait de Madame Hessel’ or ‘La dame en rouge’ is a striking example of this, both in the modernity of the pose as well as in the way the subject is handled, which reveals not only the teachings of Nabis theories, but also the many influences that Bonnard assimilated from earlier on in career.

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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Portrait de Madame Hessel ou La Dame en Rouge (1901), 110 x 79.9 cm., 43 ¼ x 31 ½ in., signed and dated ‘Bonnard 1901’ (upper right) oil on board laid down on cradled panel , Source: Christie’s (detail)

Nabis Principles Evident

One of the Nabis principles that Bonnard helped develop is distortion of perspective. In this painting, Bonnard draws full attention of the viewer to the woman in red by her seductive pose, as Christie’s describes:

Lucy Hessel is shown here in an interior scene, seated in a chair, her left arm resting on the chair back, which shifts her entire body and confers a detached attitude with a certain self-assurance, leaving us to imagine that she is fixedly gazing at someone outside of the frame and with whom she is engaged in conversation. In the foreground, the dog – a symbol of loyalty in painting since the Middle Ages – adds a spontaneous, intimate dimension to the scene which appears more impromptu for it. (Christie’s)

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Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Portrait de Madame Hessel ou La Dame en Rouge (1901), 110 x 79.9 cm., 43 ¼ x 31 ½ in., signed and dated ‘Bonnard 1901’ (upper right) oil on board laid down on cradled panel , Source: Christie’s (detail)

The Scarlet Dress

As the double title of the work suggests, this is not just a portrait of Madame Hessel, but Bonnard also seizes the opportunity to make a pictorial study of the scarlet red dress worn by the model, which occupies almost half of the composition and practically becomes a subject in and of itself. The bright red, which also appears on her lips, is made even more striking through its contrast with a very loose background in grey tones – save for part of the door frame and a gilded frame on the wall – and with the model’s porcelain skin tone.  (Christie’s)

Click For Enlarged Detail:

Best viewed At Sunnyside

 

Details

Read More

Read about The Nabis at ArtStory

 

Thanks for Reading! 🙂

~Sunnyside

2 Comments Add yours

  1. JMN says:

    Bonnard is so interesting up close! The detail views you provide are very useful for studying technique.

    Liked by 1 person

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