Musée d'Orsay: Pierre Bonnard Folding screen "with rabbits", plan

Pierre Bonnard
Folding screen "with rabbits", plan

Design for a folding screen "with rabbits"
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
Design for a folding screen "with rabbits"
Gouache with coloured pencil lines on paper
H. 47,5; W. 60,5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Projet de paravent "aux lapins"[Design for a folding screen "with rabbits"]

The vogue for all things Japanese was so great in the 1890s that not only prints, but also fans and screens, became highly fashionable. Like Vuillard in the same period and Maurice Denis later, Bonnard - who was known as the "very Japanese" Nabi - took an interest in the shape of the screen.

This large gouache painting is a design for a folding screen whose final elements are now divided between the Museum of Modern Art in New York (the three panels of the Country Scene) and the Musée d'Orsay (the single panel, The Child making a Sand Castle). A drawing from a sketchbook and a photo of Bonnard taken in his studio around 1905, show how the idea for the set of panels developed from this gouache painting. In the photograph, he is standing in front of his screen that consists of the panels in the MoMA and The Child making a Sand Castle.
The gouache painting shows a homogenous work in which foliage, greenery, female characters and rabbits are arranged to create an effect of decorative abundance. But the panel on the far left sketched here would never be executed and would be replaced by The Child making a Sand Castle, a much more sombre image. It was certainly the discordant style of this panel that led Bonnard to remove it at a later date.
The Design for a folding screen "with rabbits" therefore gives us an important insight into this fine decorative set, halfway between decorative furnishing and pure painting, and so characteristic of Bonnard's approach during his Nabi period.

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