Art Fair: Frieze Masters | Virgin. Muse. Heroine.London
Young Girls with a Dog (Two Daughters of Alexandre Natanson), 1910
With frame: 125 x 104.5 cm (49 1/4 x 41 1/8 in.)
Acquired from the artist by Alexandre Natanson, Paris;
Ambroise Vollard, Paris;
Robert de Galéa, Paris;
Christian de Galéa, Paris, by descent from the above by 1961, and until at least 1981;
with Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris;
Frederick A. and Sharon L. Klingenstein, New York, acquired from the above 26 October 1998;
Exposition des cent chefs-d'oeuvre des peintres de l'École de Paris, exh. cat. Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1946, n. p., illustrated.
Chefs-d’oeuvre de collections françaises, exh. cat. Galerie Charpentier, Paris, July–September 1962, no. 6, illustrated.
Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat. Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1966–67, no. 90.
Pierre Bonnard: Centenaire de sa naissance, exh. cat. Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1967, p. 165, no. 65.Exposition Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat. Musée Rath, Geveva, 1981, no. 30, illustrated in colour.
Jean and Henry Dauberville, Bonnard, catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint révisé et augmenté, Paris, 1992, vol. II, p. 185, no. 592, illustrated.
Hidenori Kurita, Mina Fujishima, and Masao Miyazawa, eds., Pierre Bonnard, exh. cat., Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya, 1997, p. 72, illustrated.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Exposition des cent chefs-d'oeuvre des peintres de l'École de Paris, 1946.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Chefs-d’oeuvre de collections françaises, July–September 1962.
Munich, Haus der Kunst and Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Pierre Bonnard: Centenaire de sa naissance, 8 October 1966–1 January 1967 and 13 January–17 April 1967.
Geveva, Musée Rath, Exposition Pierre Bonnard, 9 April–8 June 1981.
In this intimate domestic scene of two girls and their dog, Pierre Bonnard’s models were the daughters of the influential patron of the arts Alexandre Natanson and his wife Olga. A successful businessman and journalist, Natanson was an important collector of Nabi art and—together with his younger brothers Thadée and Alfred—founded the avant-garde literary magazine La revue blanche, which often featured the work of Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton and Toulouse-Lautrec. The present painting is closely related to Bonnard’s contemporaneous group portrait of all four Natanson daughters—Evelyn, Bolette, Georgette and Marcelle—in the salon of their grand residence on the avenue du Bois de Boulogne (fig. 1). Our work emphasizes the tender, nurturing bond between an older sister—probably Evelyn, then an elegant young woman of nineteen—and the youngest sister, Marcelle, who holds the family pet.
In 1894, Bonnard’s close friend and Nabi colleague Vuillard had created a suite of nine decorative paintings for Alexandre and Olga Natanson, which explored the theme of Jardins publics (fig. 2). These pictures included scenes of children under the trees, girls playing, and their nursemaids chatting, which the Natanson daughters may have inspired. “It is conceivable, indeed,” Gloria Groom has suggested, “that Vuillard designed the project to appeal as much to the Natanson girls as to their parents” (Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Roussel, 1890–1930, exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago, 2001, p. 123).
Some fifteen years later, the sisters in their maturity represented captivating and rewarding subjects for Bonnard, who—like Vuillard—cherished and celebrated the gentle refinements of intimisme in his art. Bonnard here positioned the two figures so that their gazes form a triangular interchange at the center of the painting: Evelyn looks at Marcelle to her right, Marcelle looks down at the dog as she strokes its head, and the dog stares up adoringly at Evelyn. The composition thus combines two recurring motifs in Bonnard’s painting, children and their domestic creatures, in a harmonious family unit. A lover of both dogs and cats, Bonnard sometimes cast them as “central characters, placed at the heart of the scene in almost human poses,” Michele Tabarot has noted, “or even represented as members of the family” (A Vision of Cats and Dogs: Bonnard and Animality, Milan, 2016, p. 135).
Fig. 1. Pierre Bonnard, Young Girls and Dogs: the Natanson Daughers, 1908, oil on canvas, private collection.
Fig. 2. Edouard Vuillard, Public Gardens, 1894, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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