Sunday, March 9, 2014
Monhegan and Bonheur
A 9x12 Monhegan seascape in oil.
John Elderfield in his essay, Seeing Bonnard, in the 1998 Sarah Whitfield catalog Bonnard answers the question I posed yesterday. He writes that Bonnard felt that "a painting is thought to remember a momentary perception. Bonnard needed to remember the original 'seductive vision' - or the 'original thought' or the 'initial idea' - of the object, he said, lest 'the inconsistent fleeting world of the object' take over and swamp him in the mere appearances of things 'just as they are'." The only way to 'remember' is to paint the remembrance.
Interestingly, Elderfield writes about focus and peripheral vision, and how Bonnard composed by placing things at the edges, and having things sink into the background, but he doesn't pursue the idea that memory itself is never very sharp. Bonnard painted from memory, and so it makes visual sense that his paintings will be like thoughts one is trying to remember: things are not quite clear, they fade in and out, something is at the edge, just about to appear, some things just cannot be grasped.
Bonnard's name is similar to 'bonheur' but while his paintings are joyous, they are also extremely sad: a dream that is powerfully suggestive but always elusive.