Having been to see the exhibition at Gagosian in Grosvenor Hill, it was only natural to look for the self-portraits in the two exhibitions at Tate Modern on Dorothea Tanning and Pierre Bonnard.
The one that grabs you most across the two exhibitions is Dorothea Tanning’s image from 1944 of a small lone woman surrounded by a huge expansive natural American landscape, a very evocative and moving work.
One of the first paintings you see in the Bonnard exhibition is ‘Man and Woman’ with presumably the young naked images of Bonnard himself and his lover. The self-portraits later in the exhibition show a man who has aged and, rather perplexingly, does not have the same panache as his other paintings of the same time. What was he trying to tell us with his self-painting? Were there two sides to Bonnard – the public and the private?
A Surrealist painter, Tanning (1910 – 2012) was an artist of many talents. Her early paintings draw the viewer into mystical imaginary worlds, often incorporating doors leading the viewer to other doors, and becomes more energetic and abstract later on, while she also wrote poetry and moved into stuffed surreal figures which, in the Hotel du Pavot – Chambre 202, become sinister figures bursting out of the wall or escaping from the fireplace….very spooky… She also designed the stage sets and costumes for four of George Blanchine’s ballets.
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) is a previous generation to Tanning. The work on show in ‘The Colour of Memory’ is a very personal selection focussed on his life, his lover Marthe de Meligny, their homes and the places they visited, including photographs of Bonnard in his studio by Henri Cartier-Bresson – more portraits.