I agree with you that the painter’s only solid ground is the palette and colors, but as soon as the colors achieve an illusion, they are no longer judged and the stupidities begin.
—Bonnard to Matisse, 1935

In short, there is something abject and sinister about Bonnard’s late bathers. . . . The metamorphosis may be gorgeous, but it is also a kind of elegant pourriture, exquisite rot, canvases shimmering with the iridescence of putrefaction, glowing with the ooze of the informe. It is significant that Bonnard’s work is at its best when he kills off or mutilates his subject: Marthe dismembered or floating in deathlike passivity is the heroine of his most exciting canvases.
—Linda Nochlin, Art in America July 1998

There is decadence that excites and decadence that enervates. Bonnard’s is the second...


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