Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) belongs to a generation of artists who followed on from Impressionism, without ever having experienced it. His inspiration came from Gauguin and his passion was for Japanese prints, which he discovered at an exhibition held at the Paris School of Fine Arts in the spring of 1890.
Throughout this decade, he developed a predominantly decorative style in which patterns fit and fold together in a complex network of swirling lines and patches of bright colour. The flat perspective thrusts shapes to the surface, levelling out all the planes. This synthetic vision and the vertical format of his decorative panels reminiscent of kakemonos hanging scrolls earned him the nickname “a very Japanese Nabi” (Félix Fénéon).
Bonnard formed the Nabi group, an aesthetic avant-garde movement with Symbolist leanings, with his friends from the Académie Julian – Maurice Denis, Edouard Vuillard, Paul Sérusier, Paul Ranson, and Gabriel Ibels. His favourite subjects are drawn from his private life and the contemporary world and the characteristic elegance, vitality, charm, deftness and humour of his paintings are expressed with equal intensity in small formats and large-scale works, such as the four panels on the theme of apple-picking brought together for the first time in this exhibition.