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Pierre Bonnard/ The Colour of Memory- Tate Britain

There are some artists who do not justify their reputation, others who merit a greater one, but Pierre Bonnard is in a class of his own- no one can agree on his reputation.

Picasso was scornful of him, Matisse regarded him as one of the greatest. The modern day critic Waldemar Januszcak – whom I don’t much like – was critical of his latest exhibition, others were spellbound by it.

The more reliable Martin Gayford opined that as he – unlike Francis Bacon – did not edit his work but sent everything off to his dealer it’s highly variable in quality.

He also referred to the time he took to complete a picture, once returning to one 23 years later and another occasion turning up at his own exhibition to add the finishing touches.

Fifteen years ago I loved Bonnard. I was once in Melbourne and was so disappointed La Toilette, it’s home in their national gallery, was in store.

La Toilette, as did so many, featured his muse, missus Marthe de Musigny, in the bathroom. He seemed obsessed with her (he painted her 385 times and for five years after her death) and the studies are not just voyeuristic but bordered on the pervy.

After this disappointment in Melbourne I went off him. So I approached this exhibition with some trepidation.

In fact I loved it not least as at 10.30am it was not too crowded. Simpler depictions of dining tables in Coffee and Bowl of Milk and a Matisse style interior/exterior The Door opening onto the Garden bowled me over for their colour, broad brush stroke and composition. I have visited his home at Le Cannet near Antibes: the collection is scanty but there are some stunning landscapes on view at the Tate.

It’s a riveting show, well worth a visit.

About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts