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Boating (Le canotage)

Boating (Le canotage)

Maker: Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947)

Date: 1897
Medium: Color lithograph on chine volant
Dimensions:
Sheet: 16 7/8 x 22 3/8 in. (42.9 x 56.8 cm)
Image: 10-1/2 x 18-1/2 in. (26.6 x 47.1 cm)
Mat III
Credit Line: Purchase, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions
Object number: 2007.130
Classification(s):
Western
Classification(s):
European
Label Text
The 1890s constitute Pierre Bonnard’s great decade of printmaking, characterized by inventiveness and bold experimentation. As he wrote, “I’ve discovered a lot that applies to painting by doing color lithography. When you have to judge tonal relationships by juggling with four or five colors, superimposing them or juxtaposing them, you learn a great deal.” This lithograph shows not only Bonnard’s fine manipulation of colors—four of them—but also his ingenious distortions of space. The slab of green at the left, which seems to rise up vertically, is actually a spread of riverbank, a place where people take their leisure, and the crisscrossing elements forming a strong horizontal at the top of the composition are the iron bars of a bridge spanning the river. Below the bridge, dabs of green suggest the play of light on the surface of the water. The legendary dealer Ambroise Vollard printed Boating for the second Album d’estampes originales, for which Bonnard also supplied the cover.

Resource: Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard, Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, exh. cat. (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2012), pp. 142–43.
This color lithograph was printed by the dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard as part of the second Album d’estampes originales (a multiple-artist print portfolio exemplifing French printmaking), for which Bonnard also supplied the cover. Boating shows not just Bonnard’s fine manipulation of colors (four of them), but his ingenious distortions of space. The slab of green at the left, which seems to rise up as a vertical element, is actually a spread of riverbank on which people take their leisure. Alongside it, the river itself recesses much more convincingly toward the background. The crisscrossing elements forming a strong horizontal at the top of the composition are the iron bars of a bridge that appears to span the river, though the bridge’s spatial relationship to the shoreline becomes ambiguous at the top left corner of the sheet. Below the bridge, dabs of green suggest the play of light on the surface of the water, while the angular ends of the canoes provide geometric accents. In short, while this outdoor scene of leisure aligns with Impressionist subject matter, the technique applied to it shows the new pictorial directions that Bonnard and the other Nabis were taking.
On view