Bonnard discovered the Mediterranean Sea and its “reflections as colourful as the light” in 1909, along with Manguin and Signac. From then on, he spent his winters in the South of France, where he used to visit Renoir who was his neighbour. He also stayed for long periods on the Atlantic coast, whose mild climate was good for the fragile health of his companion, Marthe. The couple spent several winters in the Bay of Arcachon, between 1920 and 1931.

When he left the Académie Julian, where he met Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard, Bonnard was a member of the Nabi movement. He also had what the art historian Jean Leymarie referred to as “creative intuition in the face of nature” a characteristic which he shared with Monet, who was taken up at the time with his series on The Water Lilies. Although Bonnard initially made sketches on the spot, he withdrew from the subject and continued his work in his studio, using an empirical method which gradually gave pictorial form to memories.

This maritime painting, with its intense colours, comes from the collection belonging to Dr Girardin. The handwritten inscription on the back of Conversation is: “St Germain Arcachon 1926”. The date of 1930 which is generally attributed to this work reveals how long the painting took to complete. Bonnard reinvents space by positioning the figures, gathered close together in the foreground, in such a way as to depict the water and the sky as if seen through a window. It demonstrates the painter’s interest in surprising compositions, a legacy of Japonism, as well as his use of lithography.

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City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The collections portal can be used to search the collections of Paris’s 14 municipal museums (approximately 336,000 works, including 43,000 belonging to the Petit Palais).

It is also possible to download around 12,000 images of the museum’s works free of charge.

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Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum.