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Fans of the great 20th century painter Pierre Bonnard know that in his pocket diaries he kept cryptic notes about the weather:  beau, nuageux frais, pluie, beau nuageux, beau brumeux [fair, cloudy cool, rain, fair cloudy, fair foggy].  Besides having concise meteorological value as one man’s document of late 20th century weather in various regions of France, they suddenly have come to have personal meaning for me.

Bonnard diary

It’s as though the clouds have parted and I suddenly see their meaning.

Or, it’s like the clouds suddenly parted — the day before yesterday — and I suddenly saw my drawing.  (The clouds have since closed the curtain again.)  I have been working indoors, often late at night, for such a long succession of days and haven’t seen the full daylight colors of the pigments in so long that I had half forgotten what they were.  So, the other day when the clouds parted and direct sunlight fell upon my drawing for a few hours, I was astonished and delighted beyond measure.  And I can’t tell you how marvelous it was to be able to see the rich colors of my crayons after having worked in dim light for days on end.

Now, I realize perhaps some of the reason why Bonnard recorded the weather … for the weather outside the studio determines the light that will come into the studio windows!  And you know that an artist like Bonnard, who more than most people had such a fine appreciation for a window, would know that.

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3 thoughts on “value of sunlight

  1. Love a good ah ha moment 🙂 I have been watching the sunlight intently since taking an interest in photography a few years back 🙂 and also around here for the past few months (as we have hardly seen the darn yellow ball in the sky).

  2. You haven’t seen the yellow ball, Gabe, because it was over here! And we finally saw it. It’s been hanging around lately after having been so shy. Spring is coming ….

  3. I wonder where you saw Bonnard’s pocket diary or was it from a book..? Merci Carolg

    Bonjour Carol, I’ve seen photos of pages from Bonnard’s pocket notebooks in books. Can’t recall ever seeing one of the actual notebooks first hand, however. The diary drawings are very small. One book that reproduces selected diary drawings is Sarah Whitfield’s “Bonnard,” Harry Abrams publisher, 1998.

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