Audio transcript

Pierre Bonnard 'Coffee'

Narrator: The French painter Pierre Bonnard was the master of the intimate domestic interior, a private world fleetingly made public through sensuously applied paint.

Art critic, Richard Cork talks about Bonnard's 'Coffee'

RICHARD CORK
In the Bonnard painting of 'Coffee' executed in 1915, you get the very strong feeling the artist is sitting at the table himself. Although he looks down on the scene from a slightly aerial viewpoint, he's very close to, almost as though he's participating in the drinking or eating that's going on at this table. In this period in his life, Bonnard was beginning to concentrate more and more on domesticity, on the celebration of intimate moments, rather as he does here, at his life Marthe. Marthe always seems very private and rather withdrawn. She seems to be absorbed in her own thoughts, in her own world and you can sense here that although Bonnard is near her, she seems oddly unaware of his presence. But Bonnard himself is slightly ambiguous in his attitude in this painting, because he does rather relegate her to a distant position in the painting and he's just as interested in the pattern formed by the tablecloth with these very sensuous colours. It forms in fact an almost abstract sequence of shapes stretching across the surface of the canvas and he seems to tip the table up slightly to emphasise the flatness of the picture surface. And of course it doesn't escape my attention that Bonnard painted this during the First World War. It's almost as if Bonnard hid himself away from what else was happening in the world and concentrated on everything that was around him, trying to forget that the world outside was falling apart.