Pierre Bonnard’s revolutionary and controversial use of color became a means toward unlocking his past and the truths of his own self. But what if, ultimately, there was nothing to find?
For years, Pierre Bonnard juggled the love of two of his models. The women were Marthe de Méligny, who would eventually become the artist’s wife, and Renée Monchaty, who would kill herself in spurned grief. In Young Women in the Garden, Bonnard painted them both. They are in a bourgeois backyard garden, like something out of a Renoir or Manet, at a large table adorned with a basket of fruit. Monchaty is the focal point of the scene. She sits in a chair, turned toward the viewer; her head rests innocently in her hand. She appears contented, at ease. In the bottom corner of the scene, looking not at the viewer but toward Monchaty, de Méligny looks quietly bemused, her profile nearly cut out of the frame.
Bonnard ultimately left Monchaty for de Méligny. Sensing that his marriage to de Méligny was imminent, and that his affections were fading, Monchaty fatally shot herself on her bed. More sensationally, another version has it that Monchaty slit her wrists in the bath so that Bonnard would arrive to find her dead. Whatever the case, Monchaty’s suicide was one of the central definers, tragedies, and regrets of Bonnard’s life. Read More