An image of Bust in profile, red background (study)

Pierre Bonnard

(France 03 Oct 1867 – 23 Jan 1947)

Bust in profile, red background (study)

Not on display
Further information

Demonstrating Pierre Bonnard’s status as an eminent colourist, ‘Bust in profile, red background’ is an experience of entangled seduction and harmony. Pictured either naked or bathing, the theme as in many of Bonnard’s paintings is his beloved wife Marthe, who is the catalyst for his studies on form and colour. With her neck fully elongated and her head curiously tilted to one side, Marthe bends down in an uncontrived manner with little consciousness of her husband nearby. Although the scene is a domestic one, Marthe’s unusual profile coupled with the earthy ochres and deep ambers evoke the tribal and animalistic elements of the body and intimacy.
At the centre of the foreground-based composition, Marthe’s bronzed face is delicately outlined with an untouched line of white canvas and illustrates Bonnard’s great sensitivity to colour and emotion. Whilst the left-hand side of the canvas is dominated by unharnessed colour and warmth, Bonnard paints a yellow striped sofa on the right to create structure and cool respite. Lying abandoned in one corner of the sofa are Marthe’s clothes, which further remind the viewer of her nakedness and the sensuality of the body. Despite Marthe’s self-absorption, ‘Bust in profile, red background' is a deeply intimate and adoring image of the relationship between husband and wife, as artist and muse and lovers alike. (EF)

circa 1920
oil on canvas
46.0 x 52.0 cm stretcher; 73.0 x 78.0 x 9.5 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation and the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust 2000
Accession number
Pierre Bonnard, circa 1920-1947, France
Bonnard Estate, 1947-1963, France, Estate no. 618. By descent to his heirs, the Terrasse family 1963
Private Collection, post 1963, New York/New York/United States of America, dates unknown
Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd, pre 24 Oct 2000, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd 2000