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Wed, 30 Aug


Tresillian Arts Centre

Bonnard's Doubt - Painting from Memory

Professor Read explores Pierre Bonnard's body of work in conjunction with his 20th century peers, addressing the suspension of recognition and doubt associated with Bonnard's work.

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Bonnard's Doubt - Painting from Memory
Bonnard's Doubt - Painting from Memory

Time & Location

30 Aug 2023, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Tresillian Arts Centre, 21 Tyrell St, Nedlands WA 6009, Australia

About the Event

In ‘realistic’ paintings, artists try to convey the joy of their interactions with nature by detaining them in paint. This compels the spectator to ask the question not only ‘is it beautiful?’ but also ‘what is it?’ 

But how do we know if a painting is realistic if we haven’t seen the artist’s original subject? For as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in the Tractatus: ‘in order to tell whether a picture is true or false we must compare it with reality.’

In the case of Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), whose work is celebrated in a large exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria from June to October this year, there is often the strange sense that we know what he was painting was real, but we’re not sure what it was. This is because he was always trying to recapture ‘the primary conception’ of an experience before it was frozen by recognition. He therefore worked from memory instead of laboriously confronting the motif. The great innovator Picasso hated Bonnard for this: to him he was merely a passive painter who merely ‘obeyed nature.’ In this lecture, Professor Read compares Bonnard with another realist, Paul Cézanne, and argues that the doubt and hesitation that Bonnard felt in recovering his first impressions led to a suspension of recognition that made ‘doubt’ a primal scene that admitted a legion of mysterious ghosts into his paintings that were as real for him as anything else he painted.

Richard Read is Emeritus Professor and Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, Perth. He is widely published and presents art lectures in an engaging and informative way for all audiences.

Hosted by Tresillian Arts Centre. 

Image: The Studio with Mimosa (l'Atelier au Mimosa), 1939-46, Pierre Bonnard


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    This ticket includes lecture, open discussion and light refreshments.

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