Bonnard’s bright colors, his impulsive and sensitive rendering of paint into landscape forms are qualities that I’ve adored about his art for many years. Some of his paintings are on exhibit again at the National Gallery of Art after a long time spent in cruel storage. On the walls again, they light up the room where they can bring us much delight. I’ve intended to make some drawings after various favorite National Gallery paintings, and yesterday I got a chance to begin doing so; I started with this little crayon drawing, above, after Bonnard’s “Stairs to the Artist’s Garden” reproduced below.
Making my drawing in front of Bonnard’s painting, I felt like I was in conversation with the old artist. Copying also lets one see the image more keenly and experience it with more depth and immediacy. Vicariously I stood with Bonnard in his garden. I wanted to stay there longer, but sketching some of the large elements of the scene was a fun beginning.
My drawing measures 8.5 x 6.75 inches. Bonnard’s painting measures 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 inches. He painted his picture about 1942. I made my drawing about 4pm yesterday afternoon!
A sketchy sensibility can be very close to Bonnard in spirit. In a gouache drawing of the artist’s own, the forms are put down through many delicate veils of color as illustrated here in a drawing “La Route, Paysage au Cannet” auctioned at Sotheby’s:
Lacking a brush and working with different materials, I made mine initially in the fashion of a graphic drawing and only afterwards used rubbing, smearing (and a bit of spit) to dissolve marks into tints. But I think I was able to manage some faithfulness to Bonnard’s general method-in-the-madness of big raw shapes.
To learn more about the Bonnard drawing, here’s a link to the Sotheby site: