Pierre Bonnard - Aimé Maeght's mentor


Pierre Bonnard, L'Été, 1909, oil on canvas, 260 x340 cm. Collection of Fondation Maeght.

The first meeting between Aimé Maeght and the Nabis master took place in Cannes, in 1936, through a lithograph. Pierre Bonnard, a recognized artist, already old - he will be 70 years - comes to Aimé Maeght to print the poster of a gala Maurice Chevalier. Aimé, after having been a lithographer at the Robaudy printing house in Cannes, opened his own workshop.

Immediately the two men appreciate each other and from then on, it will not be uncommon to cross paths with his tall and slim figure at the Maeght's. He wears a mustache and his eyes, of an extreme intensity behind his iron-rimmed lorgnettes, seem to be protected from the outside world.  Perhaps even from the art world. Doesn't he claim, moreover, to belong to no school but simply to do a personal work?

"Bonnard was the great turning point in my life, he became, step by step, my great friend" said Aimé Maeght. And conversely, the painter confides: "If I had to have a son, this is how I would have wanted it.

40 years separate them but a great friendship is born.

Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght, Midi beach in Cannes (Plage du Midi), summer 1946.

A decisive episode allows us to better understand the emotional bond uniting the Maeghts to Bonnard.
While Aimé Maeght is still in the Navy Infantry in Toulon, a lady enters the store of Maeght, which precedes the printing ARTE created by Aimé Maeght: "I see that you sell paintings," she said to Marguerite, "I am a merchant of paintings," replied the one who had to his credit the sale of a few paintings. This is how the widow of Henri Lebasque (1865 - 1937) entrusted her with a few works. The same day, an elegant gentleman was interested in a painting: "Are you sure that it is not a stolen painting, because it is so cheap! It was Roger Berheim, son of the famous Parisian dealer, and the sale was concluded. Faced with this success, Madame Lebasque advised Marguerite Maeght to go and see her neighbor, a painter himself, who might be happy to sell some paintings. With her handcart Marguerite Maeght climbed to the top of the Cannet. "It seems that you make paintings that are very good, I could sell them easily. This is how Marguerite Maeght addresses Pierre Bonnard for the first time. The 73-year-old artist found this young woman sparkling.

Pierre Bonnard,  Jeune fille étendue, 1921, oil on canvas, 56 x61 cm.

When he talks to her, she is only one meter fifty-four, he folds in half! This daily friendship will not be denied.

Pierre Bonnard, Marguerite and Bernard Maeght, 1943, pencil on paper, 21x26 cm.

Aimé Maeght, with his sense of art history, does not fail to capture, camera in hand, these wonderful moments of intimacy with the painter. Thus, the only films in the world where we see Pierre Bonnard are those captured by the Maeghts, picnics on the Lérins Islands, swimming in Cannes, strolling through the alleys of Suquet.

After the liberation, Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght went to Paris with the aim of finding and opening a gallery. They shared the same hotel room for over a month.
"A very curious kind of friendship had formed between Bonnard and me, which went beyond the friendship of two men with such a difference in age. For me Bonnard is the painter. In the long discussions I had with him, he was the one who was at the base of my evolution and of the opening of my mind to living art. Without Bonnard, I might have continued like the other dealers." Aimé Maeght.

Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght, Cannes, 1943

Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght riding a pedal boat, October 1946

Pierre Bonnard, Paysage du Midi et deux enfants, 1916–1918

In his paintings Pierre Bonnard gives objects a human value and reproduces things as the eye sees them. His vision is reminiscent of the Primitives. He has no equal for combining forms and colors and responding to the demands of emotion. He offers to the eye the feeling of life.