Glowing with the bright colours of Normandy and the Mediterranean, Bonnard's work records the joys of everyday life in paintings of his friends and family in intimate spaces. In ‘Peindre l'Arcadie’, the Musée d’Orsay gives us Bonnard in all his glory through a beautiful selection of works (over 100 brought in on loan), showcasing his warm tonalities in the Nabi style, Japanese decorative panels, Gauguin-style shifts in perspective, huge bucolic triptychs, Toulouse-Lautrec style distortions and more.
Bonnard carved out a stylistic space for himself distinct from his contemporary influences of modern art, neo-impressionism, Fauvism and the Vienna Secession. At a first glance this retrospective of his work breaths originality, and a joyful outlook – though on closer inspection, the idyll seems tainted. Walls rise up between husband and wide, troubling faces emerge from the foliage behind playing children, and the shadow of Bonnard’s mistress lingers over the vibrant painting of his wife bathing. The Musée d’Orsay plays on this impression of Bonnard as a complicated, contemporary character, and the exhibit is all the more gripping for it – though the pleasure is bittersweet.