Bonnard’s Experience of Twilight

See Karen’s previous post on Kandinsky and twilight here.

Pierre Bonnard is another artist in the collection who loved twilight, which he called l’heure bleue. Like Kandinsky, his work approached abstraction but did not let go of the visible world.

Bonnard’s sensitivity to the ways in which colors changed throughout the day was manifest in a letter to Matisse, in which he wrote about Matisse’s painting L’Asie (Asia), which the artist had lent him, “the red there is wonderful late in the afternoon. By day it is the blue that takes the lead. What an intense life the colors have, and how they vary with the light.”

Pierre Bonnard, The Palm, 1926, Oil on canvas; 45 x 57 7/8 in.; 114.3 x 147.0025 cm.. Acquired 1928.

The Palm and Twilight: Purkinje shift

Under conditions of reduced light, the violet figure in The Palm (above) has a spectral appearance and seems to come forward in the space. As light fades, vision shifts from the foveal cones, which are responsive to long wave yellows and reds that compose the daylight, to the peripheral rods. In twilight, short wave colors like mauve and blue increase in brightness and visibility relative to long wave colors. This phenomenon is called the Purkinje shift.

-Karen Schneider, Librarian

Summer Menu: Bonnard’s Orchard

As part of D.C. Eats: Summer of Food, we’ve invited foodies and chefs from around the city to guest blog about their favorite food-focused work of art in The Phillips Collection.

This print by Bonnard resonated with two guest bloggers. Co-Owner of FireFly Farms, Mike Koch is an avid modern art collector and sits on the board of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary. Chris Kujala is pastry chef at RIS. His birthday cake design for our 90th anniversary was voted crowd favorite. 

Pierre Bonnard, Orchard, 1899. Color lithograph on paper; 13 x 14 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

I chose this work for the warm, dream-like, green quality of the lithograph. It brought to mind the season:  warm, long summer afternoons with the unique diffusion of bright light that only summer can muster. It brought to mind the foods of summer, in their most elemental form:  fruit, soft-ripened cheeses, crisp vegetables. These are foods that used to be seasonal like the light, but our modern world has made it not so anymore. It brought to mind the bounty and appreciation of this season.

-Mike Koch, FireFly Farms

I like Orchard by Pierre Bonnard because it reminds me of where it all begins and how I look forward to every summer to go to the local farms and pick my own berries and fruit.

-Chris Kujala, RIS