My latest painting in acrylics on watercolor paper was inspired by one of Pierre Bonnard’s photos of his favorite subject, his wife, Marthe. It’s one of his black and whites and captures a rare moment when his muse is actually facing the camera and not leaning forward while bathing or looking down in the garden.
Bonnard was 26 when they met and Marthe told him she was 16. It wasn’t until 30+ years later, when they married, that he learned her name wasn’t Marthe, but Maria Boursin, and that she wasn’t actually 16 when they met but 24.
Marthe didn’t like people and never wanted to leave the house, but had no problem posing nude for her husband in front of a camera. She was obsessed with bathing, which is why there are so many images of her in and around the bathtub. On rare occasions when she had to go out in public, she made Bonnard hold an umbrella over her, rain or shine, so no one could see her face.
Pierre Bonnard was also a recluse and was perfectly happy with his troubled wife in private, but due to their differences in social status, he never let his family know he’d married her. It wasn’t until she passed away in 1942 that his friends and family learned the truth. Bonnard died shortly afterwards in 1947.