Exhibition catalogue text

Catalogue entry from Bonnard

29 Coffee 1915
Le Caf?
Oil on canvas 73 x 106.4 (28 3/4 x 41 7/8)
Tate Gallery. Presented by Sir Michael Sadler through the National Art Collections Fund 1941

Nothing is know about the history of this painting before it was bought by the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune from Jos Hessel on 7 December 1923.

The three known studies are in the Tate Gallery; two of them are reproduced here [p.110, figs 55 and 56]. The third is a small sketch of Marthe and the head of the dog [T06545-T06547].

The painting was almost certainly executed around the same time as The Red-Checked Tablecloth, a work of 1915 (Dauberville 823) which shows Marthe sitting with her dog at the same table in the same dress, holding the same white cup. There the view is looking down the length of the table, not across it. The composition of Coffee is by far the most complex and enigmatic of the two, locked into place by bands and areas of colour such as the border running down the right-hand edge of the canvas, and the decoration on the wall behind the figures, elements that are difficult to identify. (Timothy Hyman interprets the decorative border on the right as a mirror frame. See Hyman 1998, p.92). The setting does not appear to be the dining room at 'Ma Roulotte' (the table there was round), but it may be the dining room in the house Bonnard rented at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1915, and where he spent a good part of the year.

Pentimenti show that the chair on the right has been moved nearer to the centre, and the figure holding the small glass painted over it. Differences in the green paint indicate that the right-hand side of the figure has been extended. The composition has also been extended by several inches along the lower edge (as pointed out by Hyman, ibid.).

Published in:
Sarah Whitfield and John Elderfield, Bonnard, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1998, p.110 no.29, reproduced in colour p.111