Pierre Bonnard was a law student when he began his artistic training in 1887 at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he met Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) and the theorist and painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943). Both would be influential in his artistic career and become Bonnard's lifelong friends. In 1889, the year he obtained his law degree, he saw the exhibition at Café Volpini (see Gauguin, Woman in the Waves, no. 100) and was particularly impressed with Gauguin's work. Sérusier, after having returned from studying with Gauguin in Pont-Aven, decided to form his own artistic group called the Nabis (Hebrew: prophets). The founding members of the Nabis included Denis, who wrote the manifesto for the group, "Définition du néo-traditionnisme" (published in May 1890 in Art et critique), Bonnard, Paul Ranson (1864-1909), and Henri-Gabriel Ibels (1867-1936). Their first exhibition occurred in 1891, and they were later joined by Ker-Xavier Roussel (1867-1944) and Vuillard (q.v.). Based loosely on the synthetist goals established by Gauguin and Émile Bernard, the movement was created from Sérusier's vision of an artistic brotherhood dedicated to symbolism whereby a universal language could be expressed through symbols. The Nabis were opposed to the naturalism taught at academies by artists such as Bouguereau (q.v.) and wanted to move away from didactic and moral paintings toward a more decorative style characterized by simplified drawing, flat patches of color, and heavy set contours. Bonnard's works of the 1890s were influenced by the innovations of Gauguin as well as Japanese prints, which were easily accessible in nineteenth-century Paris. His paintings took on a decorative quality, mirroring his artistic expressions in other media such as stained glass, furniture, pottery, and painted screens. Bonnard's and Vuillard's domestic interior paintings of the 1890s were often described using the term intimisme. In 1891 Bonnard also experimented with other media, including poster designs and lithographs, which inspired his friend Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whom he had met through La revue blanche, a magazine that published the Nabis' work. Around 1900 the members of the Nabis began to drift apart. Between 1905 and 1910 Bonnard and Vuillard traveled to England, Belgium, Holland, Spain, and Italy, visiting many museums. Bonnard's art began to gravitate toward impressionism, but his colors were more expressive and his compositions more overtly structured; elements of the painted interiors such as doors, windows or pieces of furniture often provided a strong compositional framework. He also worked extensively with photographs. His late works were acclaimed by fellow Parisians like Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Paul Signac (1863-1935). After 1920 Bonnard exhibited extensively and became an internationally renowned artist, receiving much recognition in the United States, where he traveled in 1926.
French art dealer and publisher, 1867-1939