Musée d'Orsay: Bonnard, Pierre Design for a dining room

Bonnard, Pierre
Design for a dining room

Decorative design for a dining room
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) (1867-1947)
Decorative design for a dining room
Watercolour, pen and black ink
H. 50,5; B. 35,8 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Gérard Blot

Projet décoratif pour une salle à manger [Decorative design for a dining room]

"In my opinion, competitions have never, or almost never, produced anything worthwhile" was Bonnard's reply in an interview in 1898. Perhaps he had in mind his failure to win either the Prix de Rome competition in 1889 or the competition organised in 1891 by the Central Union of Decorative Arts for dining room furniture, and for which he had designed this very freely interpreted Chinese and Japanese inspired decoration.

Article 4 of the competition rules specified that: "Any slavish copy or imitation of a recognised style would be immediately eliminated". Judged by this criterion alone, Bonnard would most certainly have won the prize. It was certainly Roger Marx's opinion, expressed in La Revue encyclopédique of 1892, that: "only Mr. Pierre Bonnard's design, and to a lesser extent Mr. Gilbert Péjac's, managed to avoid the tedious banality of endless revivals".

The originality of this young artist in fact came through in the fantastic animal motifs he used on the dresser and the credenza, with dogs that looked more like dragons, and cockerels and ducks similar to those in Bonnard's contemporary paintings. Their fanciful curves find an echo in the equally Japanese inspired motifs of the panels (hangings or wallpaper?) on the walls.

Although rejected by the Central Union of Decorative Arts, Bonnard would still have the opportunity a few years later to design pieces of furniture for the Natanson brothers, Thadée and Alfred, for whom he created a desk and a cupboard respectively.

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