46.0 x 52.0cm stretcher; 73.0 x 78.0 x 9.5cm frame
Demonstrating Pierre Bonnard’s status as an eminent colourist, ‘Bust in profile, red background’ is an experience of entangled seduction and harmony. Pictured either naked or bathing, the theme as in many of Bonnard’s paintings is his beloved wife Marthe, who is the catalyst for his studies on form and colour. With her neck fully elongated and her head curiously tilted to one side, Marthe bends down in an uncontrived manner with little consciousness of her husband nearby. Although the scene is a domestic one, Marthe’s unusual profile coupled with the earthy ochres and deep ambers evoke the tribal and animalistic elements of the body and intimacy.
At the centre of the foreground-based composition, Marthe’s bronzed face is delicately outlined with an untouched line of white canvas and illustrates Bonnard’s great sensitivity to colour and emotion. Whilst the left-hand side of the canvas is dominated by unharnessed colour and warmth, Bonnard paints a yellow striped sofa on the right to create structure and cool respite. Lying abandoned in one corner of the sofa are Marthe’s clothes, which further remind the viewer of her nakedness and the sensuality of the body. Despite Marthe’s self-absorption, ‘Bust in profile, red background' is a deeply intimate and adoring image of the relationship between husband and wife, as artist and muse and lovers alike. (EF)
Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd (England), pre 24 Oct 2000, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd 2000
Private Collection, post 1947, New York/New York/United States of America, dates unknown
Pierre Bonnard (France, b.1867, d.1947), circa 1920-1947, France, Estate no. 618
Complesso del Vittoriano (Italy) (Author), Matisse e Bonnard, Viva la pittura!, Rome, 2006, 372, 373 (colour illus.). cat.no.142
Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum (United States of America), William Cumming: the image of consequence, 2005, (illus.). this work is not in this exhibition but is referred to in the catalogue
'Bonnard' by Angus Trumble, pg. 749-750, The Burlington Magazine Oct 2003, Oct 2003, 749. exhibition review
Jörg Zutter (Editor), Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature, Canberra, 2003, 35 (colour illus.). fig.31, cat.no.39
'And then there were two' by Edmund Capon pg.24-25, Look Jul 2001, Jul 2001, 24, 25 (colour illus.).
Jean Dauberville (France) (Author), Henry Dauberville (France) (Author), Bonnard catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1966-1974, Vol.3, 67 (illus.). cat.no. 1042
Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature, National Gallery of Australia, 07 Mar 2003–09 Jun 2003.
Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature, Queensland Art Gallery, 04 Jul 2003–28 Sep 2003.
Bonnard, Matisse and the Mediterranean, Complesso del Vittoriano, 06 Oct 2006–04 Feb 2007.