History And Context
Museum founder Duncan Phillips was immediately taken with this painting upon seeing it presented at the Carnegie International exhibition in 1924. As his wife Marjorie Phillips later recalled, it “stood out like a jewel in that vast exhibition.” The painting launched the start of a major collection that grew to over 30 works by the 1950s and that now stands as the largest, most diverse collection of Bonnard’s work in an American museum. This tightly cropped view of Bonnard’s wife with a dog on her lap recalls the artist’s Nabi intimist interiors of the 1890s both in subject, patterning, and symbolist mood. However, its marked plasticity of form and balanced color harmonies firmly situate the work in the 1920s. Here Bonnard beautifully frames the composition through the interplay of horizontals and verticals softened by the rounded curves of the plates, bottle, and the figure of Marthe herself. Working within a softly modulated tonal range of gray, blue and brown accented with red, Bonnard creates a lyrical composition infused with sonorous rhythms.