Who Killed Marthe Bonnard: Madness, Morbidity and Pierre Bonnard's 'The Bath'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

There is an ongoing revaluation of Pierre Bonnard, beginning with a retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1984 and witnessed most recently in ‘Pierre Bonnard; Painting Arcadia’ at the Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco 2016. The resulting body of literature, from reviews to catalogue essays, operates to subsume Bonnard within the modernist canon. However, the gender ambiguities in Bonnard’s practice problematize these attempts to read his paintings using modernist tropes. In particular, his depiction of his wife Marthe Bonnard in the bathtub does not fit easily within the genre of ‘the bather’. Across the literature there has been the occultation of a specific woman (Marthe), replacing her with the Ophelia stereotype through an extension of Toril Moi’s ‘death dealing’ binarism. As a consequence of reiterated speculation regarding Marthe’s mental health she continues to be characterized as the neurotic woman disintegrating in the bath/sarcophagus. This article argues that the literature creates a deathly and deadly porous woman. Reviewing the weight of gendered metaphoric language the article will offer a reading of the bath series and Bonnard’s late interiors based on the recognition of his difference – a difference that ruptures genre.

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Morbidity
Madness
Pierre Bonnard
Bath
Ophelia
Sarcophagus
Fine Arts
Art museums
Language
Tropes
Modernist Painting
Bathers
Mental Health
Reviewing
Canon
Modernist
Wives
Arcadia
Stereotypes
Metaphoric

Keywords

  • Marthe BonnardPierre Bonnard painting modernism bath domestic Ophelia

Cite this

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title = "Who Killed Marthe Bonnard: Madness, Morbidity and Pierre Bonnard's 'The Bath'",
abstract = "There is an ongoing revaluation of Pierre Bonnard, beginning with a retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1984 and witnessed most recently in ‘Pierre Bonnard; Painting Arcadia’ at the Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco 2016. The resulting body of literature, from reviews to catalogue essays, operates to subsume Bonnard within the modernist canon. However, the gender ambiguities in Bonnard’s practice problematize these attempts to read his paintings using modernist tropes. In particular, his depiction of his wife Marthe Bonnard in the bathtub does not fit easily within the genre of ‘the bather’. Across the literature there has been the occultation of a specific woman (Marthe), replacing her with the Ophelia stereotype through an extension of Toril Moi’s ‘death dealing’ binarism. As a consequence of reiterated speculation regarding Marthe’s mental health she continues to be characterized as the neurotic woman disintegrating in the bath/sarcophagus. This article argues that the literature creates a deathly and deadly porous woman. Reviewing the weight of gendered metaphoric language the article will offer a reading of the bath series and Bonnard’s late interiors based on the recognition of his difference – a difference that ruptures genre.",
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journal = "Journal of Contemporary Painting",
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Who Killed Marthe Bonnard : Madness, Morbidity and Pierre Bonnard's 'The Bath'. / Wallace, Louise.

In: Journal of Contemporary Painting, Vol. 4, No. 2, 01.10.2018, p. 267-283.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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