The Radiant Bath

"Nude in the Bath and Small Dog"
Pierre Bonnard, 1941

"Bano de Espuma"
Kirby Kendrick, 2002

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), French master of 20th Century art, painted this intimate, jewel-like image of his life-long muse and wife, Marthe, in her iconic claw-footed bathtub. Marthe, a neurotic, had a mania for cleanliness and retreated for hours everyday to her bath;  art historians also say she may have suffered from a medical condition, for which the treatment was water therapy.  Bonnard, ever the artist, repeatedly painted this bath scene, capturing this prosaic setting, and transforming it into a rich and exotic world with glowing tiles, smooth ceramic surfaces, light and pattern.  Although Marthe was 62 years old at the time of Bonnard’s painting, she is portrayed as a young woman.  Marthe, who appears in almost 400 of Bonnard’s 500 paintings, never seems to age.  Hmmm, could it be the water?

Masterpieces of Pierre Bonnard. Use this link if unable to view the video.


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  1. Donna Turner March 30, 2012 at 4:10 am - Reply

    The video is amazing! What a great overview of his work. I wish it had titles and background information, but then it would be too long. Thank you, Kirby, for exposing me to new ideas and beautiful art.

  2. Vic DePratti March 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    Great tale. Special Video. I enjoyed learning about Bonnard and very much enjoy his paintings – the colors, scenes, subjects… As for his wife, water therapy, and the aging process, well, knock yourself out. From your description of the madame, she certainly qualifies for her historic medical diagnosis.

  3. linda March 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Charming! Love your creative juxtapositions, Kirby. Lovely writing.

  4. dede schuhmacher March 31, 2012 at 12:08 am - Reply

    I never understood why Bonnard was so obsessesed with painting his wife in the bathtub. And she had the obsession of taking baths. Two people obsessed with the bathtub ? Hmmm??? Who knows ?

  5. stephen dunn March 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Bonnard’s use of color,texture and playfulness becomes very apparent when watching this delightful video. Never having really seen this many images of his work together puts a whole new light on the genius that he was…..
    However I have one monumentally important query —what color is that toenail polish in the “Kirby” painting???

  6. Lydia Pettis March 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    I think I would have liked to have Bonnard as a friend. His work feels serenely welcoming. He draws me right into the focal point; and yet the intricate backgrounds and surroundings are so beautiful. I can’t figure out how he managed to draw me in and yet so strongly leave the sense of the enviroment with me. I find it very interesting to compare similar subject matter between two artists and to realize how each one does something for me. Kirby, your bather perks me up and makes me think about starting a new day with enthusiasm. She makes me want to be more like her. Lydia

    • kkeditor March 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      Bonnard does indeed draw us in to the focal point yet leaves us with the sense of environment! In my reading on his thoughts of painting, he felt strongly about portraying the total experience he was having. The main person or central object was only part of what he actually saw. So now I’m trying to see the whole scene in my view and not just my prime focus. Hey, there’s a whole new world out there!

  7. Carolyn Bussard-Lamb April 2, 2012 at 12:59 am - Reply

    Kirby, the thing that struck me most about the radiant baths and some of Bonnard’s later works is that they have a great deal of similarity to yours in color, fluidity and style. Is there a reason why you chose Bonnard to write about? I have always enjoyed his work and yet he is not an artist that immediately comes to mind, so thanks for reminding me of his genius.

  8. Kemberly Waltemeyer April 5, 2012 at 3:20 am - Reply

    Regards for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. “Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.” by Sren Aaby Kierkegaard.

    • kkeditor April 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Kemberly for Kierkegaard’s quote. How true! One can almost feel the change!

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