Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi – colour conveys emotions

Photos- NGV
NGV entry. Photo- SAT/NN.

MELBOURNE, 8 JUNE, 2023: If Pierre Bonnard was alive today, I am sure, his creations would have stirred the next century, as we today appreciate his art woven in a time wrap, laced with emotions embedded in colours. Bonnard’s subjects are diverse and India Mahdavi’s scenography adds to the ambience. Welcome to the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) major world-premiere exhibition Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi (9 June- 8 October, 2023) in partnership with the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

At the media launch and preview today, Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos said, “The Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series delivers must-see exhibitions every year, attracting tourists from around the world and boosting our economy. Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi has been years in the making and it’s going to be a hot ticket this winter.” 

While watching the exhibition preview, ” I felt like walking into one of the painting,” the Minister said.

With around 100 Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) exhibits, the exhibition reflects the artists thematic landscape in abundance. They mesmerised me as I walked through the cosmic promotions of Bonnard’s world.

Installation view of Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo- Neeraj Nanda/South Asia Times (SAT).

To create the exhibition’s scenography, the NGV has commissioned the celebrated Paris-based architect and designer India Mahdavi. Described by The New Yorker as a ‘virtuoso of colour’ and ‘possessor of perfect chromatic pitch’, and winner of Designer of the Year at the 2023 Wallpaper* Design Awards, Mahdavi envelops Pierre Bonnard’s works in an environment that complements Bonnard’s distinct use of colour and texture, and evokes the wistful domestic intimacy for which his paintings are renowned.   

Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos at the NGV. Photo- SAT/NN.

Organised by the NGV in partnership with the Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition brings late 19th and early 20th century France to life through paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative objects by Pierre Bonnard, shown alongside early cinema by the Lumière brothers, and artworks by Maurice Denis, Félix Vallotton and Édouard Vuillard, Bonnard’s early contemporaries. 

The exhibition features loans from the Musée d’Orsay, which holds the world’s largest collection of Bonnard’s work, along with significant loans from other museums and private collections in France as well as elsewhere in Europe, the UK, the USA and Australia. International lenders include Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Art Institute of Chicago.  

 These loans are presented alongside important works from the NGV’s own collection, including Bonnard’s early masterpiece, La Sieste (Siesta), 1900, previously in the collection of Gertrude Stein and acquired by the NGV in 1949.

The exhibition also features a work recently acquired by Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family for the NGV: an intimate domestic scene by Bonnard’s friend and contemporary in the Nabi circle, Édouard Vuillard. The exhibition will also feature and contextualise Vuillard’s painting of Bonnard’s wife, Madame Bonnard and a dog, 1907, acquired by the NGV in 1955. 

India Mahdavi said, ‘Monsieur Bonnard and I share the same passion for colour — the way he invites us in his home and intimacy is sublimated by his very own sense of colour — for this exhibition, we dived into Pierre Bonnard’s paintings and extracted some of his patterns and colours to recreate backdrops to his paintings, offering an immersive experience of a home to the visitor.’ 

SITE- ngv.melbourne

By Neeraj Nanda

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