Parallel Meanings


(Left) Pierre Bonnard, Marthe nude, seated on the bed with her back turned, 1899-1900. Sepia-toned gelatin silver print, 1 1/2 x 2 in. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Gift of the children of Charles Terrasse, 1992. (Right) Pierre Bonnard, "Eté" (Summer), illustration from Parrallèlement by Verlaine, 1900. Lithograph with rose-sanguine ink, 11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, features photographs by Pierre Bonnard which served as prompts for book illustrations for Parallèlement, a book of erotic verse by Paul Verlaine published by Ambroise Vollard. As Françoise Heilbrun points out in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, the pink pencil outline imparts the female body with a kind of “feverish sensuality” that is in keeping with the poems. Surprisingly, the French censors at the Imprimerie Nationale agreed to do the printing, mistakenly thinking that Parallèment was a book on geometry! Using the character of Ubu, a tubby symbol of the French state, Bonnard and his friend, the avant-garde playwright Alfred Jarry, mocked the censors’ initial misunderstanding and their belated awareness of the true nature of the project.

Ubu observes a painting of geometric lines, only to be bowled over upon deciphering what he is really looking at. (Left) Cartoon on page 22 of Alfred Jarry, Almanach illustré du Père Ubu, 1901. Lithograph, page 200 x 285 mm. France, private collection. (Right) Cartoon on page 23 of Alfred Jarry, Almanach illustré du Père Ubu, 1901. Lithograph, page 200 x 285 mm. France, private collection.


A World in a 3-inch Square

In this photo, taken by Vuillard, note the camera, likely Bonnard's, sitting on the table, pointed at the viewer. Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard in the dining room, Rue des Batignolles, 1897. Gelatin silver print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (9 x 9 cm.). Private Collection.

The biggest idea that I took away from our staff tour of Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, was how experimental, private, and exciting the medium of photography was for these artists. They were not photographers, they were painters. They were men with a passion for visual exploration, enchanted by this easy, instantaneous little device, the snapshot camera. They brought cameras into their homes, took them on trips to the beach, set them on tables in restaurants. They took photos of their children sleeping, their lovers’ gazes, themselves reflected in mirrors, their bustling cities. These images were visual diaries of a sort, little notes about the light of the day, the activities, the emotions. They were never exhibited, occasionally traded, often collected in boxes with letters and other keepsakes. This show brings viewers into the  life of these seven artists, not just with their intimacy, but with the feeling that these memories could belong to any of us.

Director’s Desk: Augustus Vincent Tack

Director Dorothy Kosinski with works by Augustus Vincent Tack installed in the Music Room. Photo: Sarah Osborne Bender

Over the summer, I presented a gallery talk on a series of 12 works by Augustus Vincent Tack, commissioned by Duncan Phillips in 1928. It is currently reinstalled in the wood-paneled Music Room, for which it was originally created.  Below are excerpts from the discussion. Join me on December 15 at 6:30 pm for the next in our series of Director’s Perspectives, this time on work by Joseph Marioni

Duncan Phillips and Augustus Vincent Tack met in 1914 and developed a deep and enduring friendship. Painter and patron had a lot in common:  both were born in Pittsburgh and both had deep ties to Yale. Tack played an important role in fostering Duncan Phillips’s appreciation of the power and beauty of modern art.

The Phillips Collection owns seventy-five Tack paintings. “Tack” never became a household name. Whether Tack was fashionable was not the point. Duncan Phillips was passionately engaged in supporting emerging American artists alongside Europeans. The project was never about a suite of trophies, but about getting to know the artist and collecting his work in depth. Continue reading “Director’s Desk: Augustus Vincent Tack” »