The Palm exemplifies Pierre Bonnard’s mature achievement, in which his gifts as a colorist and draftsman were in full flower. It is a luminous elegy on the process of seeing as revelation and sensual delight.
Bonnard’s first impression of the Mediterranean coast was “an experience akin to the thousand and one nights; the sea, the yellow walls, the reflections which are as colored as the light effects.” Yet he found the southern light alien at first, writing, “I can’t paint here; there are no colors.” But by seeking a vantage point from the shadows, as he did in The Palm, he found that the brilliance could come alive, the nuances of color animated by the deep shades in the foreground.
The view of Cannes and the surrounding hills formed the matrix of Bonnard’s landscapes from the twenties onward, recalling Cézanne’s preoccupation with Mont Sainte-Victoire in Provence. Bonnard worked in southern France for part of almost every year, by 1922 favoring Le Cannet, the village above Cannes.