Van Gogh Museum acquires painting by Pierre Bonnard

Montmartre in the rain: the first Nabis painting by Bonnard to be owned by a Dutch public collection

26 May 2009

The Van Gogh Museum recently enriched its collection with the painting Montmartre in the rain by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). The work forms a valuable addition to the Van Gogh Museum's extensive collection of Nabis prints. Bonnard painted Montmartre in the rain in 1897 at the peak of his Nabis period. The painting is typical of Bonnard's early style. The acquisition represents the Van Gogh Museum's next step in building up a collection of Nabis paintings, following its purchase of The two sisters by Maurice Denis (1870-1943) in 1991. The purchase was made possible with support from the BankGiro Lottery, which contributed around half the purchase price, the Rembrandt Association (supported by Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds) and the VSB Foundation.

Montmartre in the rain
The French artist Pierre Bonnard painted this pleasant view of Paris from his attic studio in Montmartre. He depicted the rue Tholozé on a rainy evening, with a horse-drawn carriage and dark figures under umbrellas hurrying past brightly lit shop windows. Alongside this lively street scene, the left-hand side of the painting looks peaceful.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Montmartre in the rain, 1897, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The grand houses and courtyard refer to the more intimate, secure life of Paris. The blank wall, placed emphatically in the centre, divides the scene, thus creating a daring composition. The large areas of colour, the oblique perspective and the dark silhouettes betray the influence of Japanese prints. Bonnard was fascinated by this view and by the rue Tholozé; over a number of years he included this view, or parts of it, in at least ten works. The museum has already two lithographs with this theme in its collection.

Pierre Bonnard
Within the Nabis group, Bonnard was known for the Japanese influences in his work. This earned him the nickname 'Bonnard, très Japonard'. These Japanese influences are reflected in the two-dimensionality, overlapping and strong contours used in his work, as can be seen most clearly in his advertising posters. The artist began his career in 1885 in Paris. Together with Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier (1863-1927) and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) he founded the artists’ circle Les Nabis. They presented themselves as 'prophets' of a new art and, like Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) before them, gave primacy to their imagination and personal experience. In terms of style and subject, their work displays more differences than similarities. The work of Denis and Sérusier, for example, evinces a pronounced tendency towards symbolism and occultism, while the work of Vuillard and Bonnard manifests a greater attention to painting technique.

The painting may be viewed until 20 September 2009 on the third floor of the Rietveld building.

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