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After the Shower

Pierre Bonnard, French, 1867 - 1947

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1914

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
37 3/8 x 26 3/16 inches (94.9 x 66.5 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 163, European Art 1850-1900, first floor

Accession Number:
1963-181-1

Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963

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Label:
Pierre Bonnard was one of the great colorists of twentieth-century French painting. After the Shower, with its gorgeous palette and dazzling optical effects, is a fine illustration of what the artist meant when he claimed that painting is "the transcription of the adventures of the optic nerve." This luminous canvas, which was probably painted at the Villa Joséphine in Saint-Tropez, belongs to a celebrated series of pictures in which the artist's lifelong companion, Marthe de Méligny, is observed following her daily routine of washing and drying herself. These intimate portraits evoke the quiet life the two shared in the south of France.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Bonnard was one of the great colorists of twentieth-century French painting. With its gorgeous palette and dazzling optical effects, After the Shower is a fine illustration of what the artist meant when he claimed that painting is "the transcription of the adventures of the optic nerve."1 The shimmering forms, dissolved in particles of light, slowly take shape before our very eyes. This canvas belongs to a celebrated series of pictures in which the artist's lifelong companion Marthe de Méligny is observed following her daily routine of washing and drying herself. These intimate portraits, drenched in sunlight and saturated with a mood of reverie, evoke the quiet life the two shared in the South of France. Bonnard's variations on the theme of Marthe's bathing ritual may have been prompted by Degas's taboo-breaking depictions of women in their own domestic surroundings washing themselves.

    In this painting, Bonnard depicts his future wife with extraordinary tenderness as she sits in a chair, wrapped in a dressing gown. On the table in front of her is a glistening still-life arrangement, and to her right a white towel is draped over a stand, presumably left there to dry in the morning sunlight streaming through the window above. Marthe is shown with her eyes shut in self-absorption as she delicately dries her ankle. Bonnard captured a moment of great intimacy in this luminous picture, characteristically combining painterly beauty with psychological insight. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 41.

    Note:
    1) Pierre Bonnard's notes, February 1, 1934, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; quoted in Bonnard: The Late Paintings, by John Russell (New York and London: Thames & Hudson, 1984), p. 69.

Provenance

With Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris; E. R. Bühler, Winterthur, by 1926 [1]; on consignment with Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne; sold to Louis E. Stern, New York, September 2, 1946 [2]; bequest to PMA, 1963. 1. See Courthion, "L'Art français dans les collections privées en Suisse," in L'Amour de l'Art, vol. 7, February 1926, p. 59 (as Bühler Collection). 2. A 1964 letter from Galerie Rosengart gives Stern's purchase date (PMA Archives, Marceau object files, Stern Collection). According to provenance notes made by Louis Stern (copy in curatorial file), E. R. Bühler was the painting's only previous owner, although in fact Bühler acquired the painting through Bonnard's dealer Bernheim-Jeune; see the Dauberville catalogue raisonné and letter from Galerie Rosengart to Henry Gardiner, c. June 1964 (copy in curatorial file). Bühler (also referred to as Richard Bühler or simply R. Bühler in the Dauberville catalogue raisonné) was a cousin (Stern's notes describe him as a brother-in-law) of Mrs. Hédy Hahnloser-Bühler of Winterthur, Switzerland. Bonnard was a close friend of the entire Hahnloser family, particularly Hédy and her husband Arthur, whom he met in 1910, and he made portraits of several of its members.


* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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