Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947)
From Paul Verlaine's Parallèlement, Paris, A. Vollard, 1900
Color lithograph; 11 15/16 x 9 13/16 x 1 3/16 in. (30.3 x 25 x 3 cm)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1970 (1970.713)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Bonnard's response to Verlaine's poems on the parallelism of human nature was unprecedented in its rich expansiveness, his 109 designs suggesting the Rococo splendor of red-chalk drawings by Boucher and Watteau. The book, published by Ambroise Vollard, was the first modern livre de peintre, combining a classically printed text with a painter's freehand allusions. The illustrations are luxuriously unconfined by either strict format or literal attention to the text, and flow with extraordinary immediacy. While one contemporary critic dismissed the work as "uncertain stutterings," another declared that never before had illustrations been so perfectly adapted to a book of verse. Indeed, the harmonious relationship of word and image set a new standard in book design.