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Julie Heffernan on Pierre Bonnard

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Julie Heffernan considers Pierre Bonnard's Large Yellow Nude (1931).

Heffernan interprets the foreground of the painting: "If you look closely you can see inchoate thumbs and scribbled knuckles that are holding some obscurely drawn, scribbley thing. Suddenly we realize that those thumbs and knuckles function pictorially as our own… We become Bonnard looking at his wife… We see a man who has stumbled on his wife engaged in her intimate rituals: she doesn’t like to be looked at so he hides from her, but he sees something on the floor that is discarded. He picks it up, hoping to find in it a clue to her deep otherness through its totemic nature. It is her menstrual rag that she has left on the floor, with its scribbles of red and clots of dried blood."

Heffernan admires Bonnard's "nuance, with his ability to show the interrelatedness of things… What is different with Bonnard is that nothing is off limits to one who sees with no distinctions between chairs and fireplaces and radiators and a woman crouching. They are all part of the eternal swoop of sensations – particles of light in constant flux and shimmer."