In The French Window, we are witnessing a representation of the entire process of the act of creation of the idea as well as seeing the completed painting, all in one work. It is a revealing and great work of Bonnard, and to see it helps us to understand his quest. We see Bonnard experiencing for the first time his sensation, conceiving the first idea of the painting as image whilst looking at his model, Marthe. She is opposite him, the back of her head towards us, her face being viewed by the artist, who is probably drawing her at that moment on a small piece of paper, all of this takes place in the mirror, whilst we the viewers also see Marthe in front of the mirror as Bonnard would have seen her in front of him, intensely absorbed in a specific act of mixing or stirring a bowl tilted in front of her. In the painting, the clarity of the figure of Marthe is noticeably particular and detailed. It is only after carefully observing the “final” marks describing Marthe looking at the bowl (and looking inward at the same time, reflecting whilst being reflected) and describing the vitality of her hands grasping the bowl and mixing the ingredients that we realize their source – pencil incisions, scratched and etched into the paint. Defining the head’s expression and tilt, Bonnard uses the graphite and charcoal along with the pigments of color. We find charcoal again amidst colored oils in “TheWhite Interior,” a painting with a myriad of different whites, and a multitude of spaces, and a floor mysteriously turning into a crouching figure. Bonnard uses charcoal marks as final marks in and on top of the paint film to modify and control the flow of space.
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