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Pierre Bonnard

(1867 Fontenay-aux-Roses – 1947 Le Cannet/Cannes)

Petites Scènes Familières. 19 lithographs on Chine volant. 4to crown octavo folio (sheet size). Monogrammed with the brush in blue and red. 1893. Roger-Marx 6 – 24; Bouvet 6 – 24.

The Petites Scènes Familières are the first illustrated work that Bonnard produced as a printmaker, being issued in book form by the Parisian publisher F. Froment in 1893. The subtly and humorously observed scenes, which are treated in an ingeniously reductive and terse stylistic idiom and show the young Bonnard at the top of his form, illustrate musical compositions by Claude Terrasse, the artist’s brother-in-law. The cycle, considered to be an early masterpiece of the Nabis, embodies the aesthetic principles of their style in exemplary fashion. Bonnard, who had originally intended to become a lawyer, was initially self-taught as an artist before beginning to study art at the renowned Académie Julian in Paris in 1887. In 1889, inspired by his familiarity with the oeuvres of Gauguin and Emile Bernard, he joined the group of artists Les Nabis and soon belonged, together with his friend Edouard Vuillard, to the most prominent members of that innovative and creative artistic community. In the course of his artistic development Bonnard was not only receptive to the progressive artistic tendencies in French painting, but was also profoundly influenced by his encounter with Japanese art. The emphatically decorative character of his graphic art, the extreme simplification of form and space it entailed, and the nimble, calligraphic linework would be inconceivable without the example of the Japanese colour woodcut. With great economy of means he succeeded in portraying scenes of family life and inner-city living in an inimitably suggestive and humorous way that lent even the humblest aspects of everyday life a magic and poetry all of their own. The drawing style is lively, spirited and possesses an almost musical quality, which ingeniously translates the melodic structures of Claude Terrasse’s compositions to the black-andwhite medium of lithography.

Before the publication of the book edition Bonnard printed about twenty complete series of trial proofs on Chine volant. These were impressions before the typographical text that had been monogrammed by the artist with the brush and were probably intended for close friends. Only two impressions of the title page are known to exist, which is missing here. Instead, the present series possesses the simple envelope of grey-green, hand-made paper with lettering by the artist himself. Our copy originates directly from the family estate of Claude Terrasse.

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