The Terrace at Vernonnet, 1939. Pierre Bonnard. Oil on canvas. Gift of Florence J. Gould, 1968. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
This is probably Bonnard's last view of the terrace at his house in the Seine valley between Normandy and the Île de France, not far from Giverny, the home of his friend Claude Monet. He purchased the property in 1912 and used it as a subject for his painting until 1939. Elements of his comfortable bourgeois life are in evidence: fruit, wine, company. The gaze of the central figure is rather enigmatic, as is the gesture of the woman at the right. The main figures concentrate on their inner world rather than on their companions or the tasks in which they are engaged. Bonnard painted a shaded corner of the irregularly shaped, raised terrace that surrounded the house. Only a banister indicates the steps that descended to the sprawling garden below. In the painting the terrace serves as a stage, with the garden rising like a curtain beyond. Toward the end of his life Bonnard approached abstraction, increasingly subordinating the subject in order to obtain the desired effects of color and light.