Painting and Scent: Pierre Bonnard’s Perfumed Impressionism

Pierre Bonnard was part of a group of French artists called Les Nabis, post-Impressionist painters who came together in the late 19th century.  The artists of this circle were highly influenced by the paintings of the Impressionists, and thus while sharing the flatness, page layout and negative space of art nouveau and other decorative modes, much of Nabis art has a painterly, non-realistic look, with color palettes often reminding one of Cézanne and Gauguin.  In this painting, called “Nu à Contre-jour” or “Eau de Cologne,” Bonnard portrays a woman after her bath, inhaling perfume while the curves of her body are softly lit by sunshine coming in through the window.  The swirling brushstrokes evoke the fragrant fumes rising from the bottle.  The pose of the woman, in a contraposto with her head slightly raised, represents one in a state of a religious rapture.

Pierre Bonnard, Nu à contre-jour, 1908, oil on canvas, 124.5 x 109 cm

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