Pierre Bonnard

Le Golfe, entre la Napoule et Saint-Raphaël

Oil on canvas: 17.1(h) x 22(w) in /

43.5(h) x 55.9(w) cm

Signed lower left: Bonnard

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BV 108



Fontenay-aux-Roses 1867-1947 Cannet, Alpes-Maritimes


Le Golfe, entre la Napoule et Saint-Raphaël


Signed lower left: Bonnard

Oil on canvas: 17 1/8 x 22 in / 43.5 x 56 cm

Frame size: 24 ½ x 29 ½ in / 62.2 x 74.9 cm


Painted in 1912



Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired from the artist on 15th May 1912 (inv. no.19518)

Charles Pacquement, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 29th May 1912;

his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 12th December 1932, lot 9;

Collection Sée, by whom acquired at the above sale

Knoedler & Co., Paris

André Derain, Paris;

his sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 22nd March 1955, lot 54, pl.9

Sotheby’s London, 28th June 1961, lot 3, illus.

Jacques Daber, Paris, by 1962

Anonymous sale, Christie’s London, 3rd December 1965, lot 59 (10,500 gns to Brame)

P Brunet, Paris;

from whom acquired in 1969 by a private collector, France;

by descent



G Coquiot, Bonnard, 1922, p.50

Gazette de l’Hôtel Drouot, 13th December 1935

Le Peintre, 1st April 1955, p.17

L’Oeil, 15th May 1955, p.41

A Terrasse, Bonnard, Geneva 1964, p.50, illus. in colour

J & H Dauberville, Bonnard, catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, vol. II, 1906-1919, Paris 1968, no.743, p.294, illus.



Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Bonnard, Oeuvres récentes, June-July 1912, no.7 (as Le Golfe)

Paris, Galerie Daber, Peinture 1830-1940, May 1962, no.29, colour pl. IV (as Le Golfe de Saint-Tropez)



Pierre Bonnard first went to Saint-Tropez in 1904 but it was not until 1909, visiting the town with Henri Matisse, that he was struck with ‘the revelation of a Thousand and One Nights….the sea, the yellow walls, the reflections as full of colour as the light’[1]. He visited the South of France frequently for the rest of his career, settling permanently at his villa at Le Cannet, above Cannes, in 1931.


Le Golfe, entre la Napoule et Saint-Raphaël, made in 1912, depicts the sweep of coastline north-east of Saint-Tropez. Although the view is rooted in topographical observation, Bonnard is also fascinated by the decorative qualities of the landscape and the patterns on the picture surface. The band of moss- and emerald-green across the foreground gives dynamism to the view: the expanse of water, formed of blended blues and mauves with ripples of pink, seems to hang dream-like above the land, closed by another band of violet hills. Pink-tinged clouds evoke the warm light of the Midi. A yacht, defined in orange and blue with a swift, child-like candour, introduces a human element. Bonnard makes the landscape pulsate with the magical hues of the Midi, giving a panoramic breadth to a comparatively small canvas. As he remarked to a young disciple towards the end of his life: ‘Our God is light’[2].


In these years Bonnard was experimenting with large, mural landscapes, such as Mediterranée, 1911 (Hermitage, St Petersburg), commissioned by the Russian industrialist Ivan Morozov (1871-1921) for his Moscow mansion on Prechistenka Street[3]. Like Le Golfe, only on a bigger scale, this monumental composition breathes an air of paradaisal well-being in the herb-scented landscape and radiant light of the South. Le Golfe, entre la Napoule et Saint-Raphaël was exhibited with several other Provençal views at Bonnard’s Paris dealer Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1912. This group of recent works included Paysage de Montagne (Heinrich Wolfer Collection, Winterthur, in 1957)[4] and Campagne Provençale (Mme I Vogel-Sulzer, Istnach-Zürich)[5].



Fontenay-aux-Roses 1867-1947 Cannet, Alpes-Maritimes


Born in a Paris suburb in 1867, Pierre Bonnard was the son of a bureau chief in the Ministry of War who encouraged his son to pursue a classical education followed by a career as a barrister.  In 1885 Bonnard enrolled in law school and received his degree in 1888. Throughout his law studies he attended art classes at the Académie Julian and was accepted at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was during this period that he met a remarkable group of young artists, including Paul Sérusier, Maurice Denis and Edouard Vuillard, who became lifelong friends.


Bonnard soon developed a strong bond with Vuillard and readily joined the group of artists, led by Sérusier, who called themselved the Nabis (‘prophets’ in Hebrew), who were particularly influenced by Paul Gauguin and whose main aim was to develop the ideals of Impressionism. The group caused considerable outrage in Paris and during the Exposition Universelle in 1889 they controversially showed their work at the exhibition organised by Gauguin at the Café Volpini near the newly erected Eiffel Tower.


By the age of twenty-two Bonnard was still a practising lawyer and by the end of 1889 became a licensed attorney.   He soon became disillusioned by his daily routine in the Paris law courts and in 1891, after receiving one hundred francs from France-Champagne for a poster commission, Bonnard chose to give up law completely to concentrate on his artistic career. That same year he submitted his first entries to the Salon des Indépendants which were well received by the critics; he continued to be an active and committed member of the Nabis. Bonnard’s early works have a clear palette and bold execution which are clearly influenced by the Symbolist poetry of Mallarmé and the teachings of Gauguin and Sérusier. 


In 1893 Bonnard met his lifelong companion, the beautiful Marie Boursin, whom he encountered on the boulevard Haussmann in Paris when she introduced herself as sixteen-year-old Marthe de Méligny, the daughter of aristocratic Italian parents. It was not until after their marriage some thirty years later that Bonnard discovered her real identity: she was a farmer’s daughter from the Midi and had been twenty-four at their first meeting. Described as ‘voluptuous’ and ‘almost risqué’, Marthe became central to Bonnard’s work, appearing in one hundred and fifty paintings and over seven hundred sketches. 


By 1900 Bonnard had been working with the Nabis for nearly a decade and felt that he needed more independence to develop his personal style. He began to travel extensively within France and abroad, visiting Belgium and Holland in 1907, Italy in 1910 and 1922, England, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia and America in 1926, widening his experience and expanding his horizons. In 1909 he joined Henri Matisse in a painting expedition to the South of France which had a remarkable effect on the future of his work. Seduced by the bright sunlight and bold colours of the Mediterranean, he discovered an overwhelming passion for colour which from this moment became of primary importance in his art. In 1912 Bonnard bought a house in Vernon in the Eure region, near Monet’s beloved Giverny, where he and Marthe lived most of the year, only escaping to the warmth of the Côte d’Azur in winter. Bonnard continued to paint sunlit interiors peopled by his family and friends and his works developed into intimate portrayals of his personal life. In 1931 he settled permanently in the villa at Le Cannet, which he had purchased in 1926. This became the subject of his glorious golden canvases and he continued to paint there until his death in 1947.


[1] Quoted in Nicholas Watkins, Bonnard, London 1994, p.119.

[2] Quoted in Watkins, op. cit., p.217.

[3] Watkins, ibid., pp.122-3, illus. in colour.

[4] Dauberville 1968, op. cit., vol. II, pp.282-3, no.722, illus.

[5] Ibid., vol. II, pp.282-3, no.723, illus.

ImpressionistPierre Bonnard