What’s your name again?: The Love Story of Pierre and “Marthe” Bonnard

Walking through the Phillips’s new Snapshot exhibition, a viewer encounters hundreds of personal photographs by  seven artists. In some cases, these photos are exploratory studies for future paintings and prints. Most of the time, however, they simply document the artist’s everyday life. What’s striking about the photographs on display is not only how much they extol the artists’ aesthetic sensibilities, but how much they  reveal about their private lives. These artists photographed their true loves, whether the streets of Amsterdam, nieces and nephews playing in the backyard of a country manor, or, in many cases, the women in their lives.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this is the first in a series of three love stories, featuring artists in the exhibition—Pierre Bonnard, Henri Evenepoel, and Edouard Vuillard—and the ladies they loved.

Bonnard, Marthe in Montval, standing by a chair, 1900-01. Modern print from original negative; 1 1/2 x 2 1/8 in. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of the children of Charles Terrasse, 1992.

Legend has it that a 26-year-old Pierre Bonnard met 16-year-old Marthe de Méligny when he helped her cross a Paris street in 1893. Marthe had just moved to Paris after leaving her hometown of Saint-Amand-Montrond, a small town south of Bourges, and was working in a shop making artificial flowers for funerals. As the story goes, they fell in love and dedicated their lives to one another until her death in 1942. Happily ever after, right? Continue reading