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Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please contact mpub-help umich. For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. Can we say Reflection in the Mirror Effet de glace is prototypical? In these formal qualities, we can see at a glance: yes, the painting is prototypical of Pierre Bonnard.

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French painter. The scene depicted in Reflection in the Mirror is simultaneously intimate and immense. In this case, the reflection dominates the composition, only a sliver of a shelf and narrow glimpse of surrounding wall appear at the outer edges; Bonnard has painted these in neutral tones of yellowish greens, pale pinks, and paler oranges.

Bonnard is rare in his wish to show a world that contains forms not fully formed. Even with the forms that are readily nameable, there are no hard edges; the forms are a bit unsettled. Mass is energy, energy mass; light pulses. Colors are energized. Paint strokes nestle together, shapes begin to dissolve or, is it: shapes have not yet congealed fully?

We see the world as feathery, slightly blurred. What provides such a look? Peripheral vision—the expansive imagery that stretches away from the center of foveal vision—looks like this. Also, the vision of mild myopia; Bonnard wore wire-rimmed spectacles—do we hypothesize that this is how the world appeared to him when he took his glasses off? Also, the vision at a great distance appears slightly out of focus. Bonnard concocts a paradox: now we are free to focus on the peripheral view; now we face closely the view from afar.

A curious effect: the power of colors to shift identities exists in inverse proportion to the differences in the colors themselves. However, the eye perceives this contrast easily and consistently. The smallest modulation and the yellows appear lighter here and darker there, next to the orange. Color is always perceived relative to and influenced by the colors in proximity. Subtle, Pierre nude sex women colors off whites, pale violet, grayish tints, and so on are easily unsettled.

Art students are familiar with these dynamic properties of color through well-known and widely adapted color exploration projects deed by Josef Albers.

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But before Albers codified the possibilities as studio exercises make two different colors look like one; make one color look like two colors; create luminosity; and so forth Bonnard offers us a world—a canon of paintings—bedazzled by an aesthetic vision built on these effects. Painting that warrants sustained interest requires memorable and emotionally resonant visual form; a great painting achieves a profound linkage of style, technique, and theme.

The great painting sings. Greatness also requires the active involvement of the viewer. The viewer s the painting to participate in the process of performing meaningfulness. This may seem counterintuitive. In this view, the most praiseworthy painter would be the one who picks up the painting and knocks the viewer over the head.

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What strategies did Bonnard bring to bear to create an active relationship between the viewer and the artwork? Color is central to the composition, and the quality of color in perpetual flux is central to the theme: time and space flow endlessly, ceaselessly. Or does it? Even in a small interior, he shows us the view of someone who looks around ; the painting offers more than the classic view in one single, fixed direction.

The view in looking at a Bonnard is immersive: the viewer is embraced, surrounded by the scene. One looks in different directions, much as one would scan a real room upon entering through a doorway. Scanning around, of course, makes the relationship of viewer to artwork increasingly interactive Remember? But this fact—that one scans around a Bonnard painting—is something of a paradox. Like Edgar Degas of the preceding generation, Bonnard was a French painter who was enamored with taking photographs and using them as sources inspiring his own compositions.

A standard photo is the antithesis of scanning. It is a fixed view, in one direction. So, it is a puzzle how Bonnard can look to a photograph as an initial source for composing a painting that is panoramic. In the snapshot photo, taken by Bonnard in approximatelythe model stoops nude in a metal washbasin; she is bathing: the scene is entirely out in space, in depth.

In the oil painting, created eight years later, circa — Nu au tub —space has become a plastic, flexible element. The dimensions extend outward, down, and back—from side to side, from front to rear—so that the scene puts its arms around the viewer, giving the viewer Pierre nude sex women hug, so to speak.

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And, at the same time, the viewer is pulled forward, into the scene. The view is looking down into the tub, down at the head and shoulders of the nude female. Like walking into a room for the first time or after a long absencethe viewer coming upon a painting by Bonnard takes in the scene, over time. Viewing a painting by Bonnard, our eyes light upon various focal points one after another, and, then, gradually, we slowly build up an awareness of the whole, we slowly can hold the plenitude of visuality.

In an exhibition, pausing before Reflection in the Mirror, for instance, I glance first at the vivid blue in the lower center of the composition, then my eye is attracted up to the tilted face of the figure, then I scan down the expanse of her body, then my eyes leap—over to the white shape a curtain?

Now I am catching sight of the delicate manner in which the artist has painted in small white strokes the individual letters of his name B o n n a r d just above the mirror. Seeing is looking in various directions, and seeing is remembering what one looked at earlier. I have no doubt that another viewer approaches the painting in a modified manner, so that the composition unfolds in a different sequence of directed glances; just as my own approach to seeing Reflection in the Mirror will be altered the next time I look into its surface.

Peripheral vision plays an Pierre nude sex women role in this process, just as it does in scanning a scene in real life. And, now that I look closely I see those pieces of fruit are reflections of the actual fruit balanced on the table, off to the right. What of the painting itself?

Did Bonnard the artist glance at each of his paintings-in-progress from an angle?

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As an artist whose aesthetic vision promotes the periphery, would Bonnard have chanced to look at his own art from a similar vantage point? And how much control has he exercised in creating the painting: did he mean for us to move along its length as we study its various aspects, sometimes moving position and sometimes standing still but moving our head, even tilting it? I want to argue that the answer must be, decisively, yes!

And, doing so—if we move around the painting as a physical surface like a planar objectand move our he and look in different directions: what then? How does the painting appear now, how does it function? Curiously, paintings in our own era, in which the view of the artwork illustrated in a book or on a computer screen provides a convenient and habitual manner of viewing a painting squarely, the artist in his studio, and the viewer in the museum or gallery, or the person chancing upon a painting hung on a wall in a home—in all these cases the painting is seen, almost without exception, first from an angle.

The approach to a painting is most often coming at it sideways. Our involvement with paintings from eras gains new vitality as our approach to contemporary paintings shows us new ways back into the past. And vice versa. A feedback loop must be maintained for any art form to stay relevant to the culture. In the case of Bonnard, we want to unravel how he saw his own paintings—how he meant for his paintings to be seen. And, second, we want to gain knowledge of how now, at this point in cultural history, we can look at his paintings. Bonnard constructed his paintings to emphasize those qualities—that they are panoramic, that they were created based on a changing line of sight, that they bring the viewer into their midst, that they were imagined in terms of a moving position, that they Pierre nude sex women a premium on a plastic conception of space.

No, the viewer moves along the painting, scanning its surface, and looking intensely at those portions of the painting that are close at hand. In this process, the perspective extending into space along the porch on the left side is seen as if that extended straight out from the viewer.

Moving to the right, along the width of the painting, other aspects take precedence, and our view aligns successively with them. If we stand in front of the far right side of the painting, that portion of the image is square to our looking, whereas the porch in depth on the left is now viewed at an oblique angle. Bonnard surely meant for this changing perspective to occur; and, doing so, the painting seeks and rewards our increased interactivity, both physically and mentally.

Just as the viewer takes in the scene over time, the scene takes in the viewer over time. It is one way to look at Reflection in the Mirrorbut this should not exhaust our ways Pierre nude sex women looking. And, last but not least, one needs to look, if one is to see the painting in its entirety, from a variety of positions: up close and far away, dead center squarelyfrom the left, and from the right. Of these positions, it is most ificant for us to dwell at some length on the two angled views.

It is a historical fact that over the course of the history of paintings there has been a shift.

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I generalize here, but the basic concepts are key: early in its history, painting like sculpture was seen from many positions. Then, slowly, for several reasons, painting became an art form that focused increasingly on the rectangular format, and, then, the process of looking at rectangular paintings focused increasingly on viewing them squarely with the line of sight perpendicular to the picture plane.

It was during this change that the concept of anamorphosis became popular, something of a parlor trick to entertain viewers. Painters and their viewing audience recognized that the view from a slant collapsed the horizontal dimension of forms painted on the surface: moving increasingly to a more angular view, the picture on a surface appears increasingly scrunched.

The development of anamorphic imagery took advantage of this—hiding in the squared representation an image that would only gain its complete normal shape when viewed at an extreme angle. While the development and then wide deployment of linear perspective played a large role in this shift, other factors—the development of easel painting, the premium on portability, the development of photography, the development of printed illustrations, the development of the white gallery aesthetic—all exerted varying influences. Again, I simplify, but from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century, the only way to look properly at an easel painting and the vast majority of paintings then were easel paintingsto appreciate it aesthetically, was dead on.

Within this paradigm, the shape of the painting is, must be, a perfect rectangle. I call a rectangle perfect when the view of the rectangle, on the retina, presents both pairs of opposing sides of equal length, and all angles are right angles.

This is not a rectangle seen from an acute Pierre nude sex women what, in geometry, is identified as an isosceles trapezoid. Seen fully, how does Reflection in Pierre nude sex women Mirror appear? It is ificant that the image in the painting becomes flexible, space is plastic, malleable, by the action of the viewer in moving around and looking at the painting from a variety of changing positions. For instance, when looked at from the right side, the primary view is into the room reflected within the mirror. The viewer conceives of himself or herself off to the right side, looking into the mirror at a sharp angle, and, through this view, the bending figure of the nude can be glimpsed.

Now, when I change my position, crossing to the left side, and look at the painting, the view is quite different. The view from the left creates the illusion that I now look straight into the mirror itself. I am looking at the mirror directly, square on. My own invisibility is clearly apparent. From this angle, the physics at play is altered: I should be seen somewhere in the mirror; I should be there, in the mirror, close to the bending female.

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