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NGV’s 2023 Winter Masterpieces “years in the making”

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By Helena Morgan

This year’s annual Winter Masterpieces at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) features renowned post-Impressionist French artist Pierre Bonnard and designer and architect India Mahdavi.

This exhibition, developed in collaboration with the Musee d’Orsay, was scheduled to premiere in 2020, however, the pandemic forced the gallery to postpone. Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos is excited for Melbournians to finally experience this exhibition which he said had been “years in the making”.

“It’s going to be a hot ticket this winter,” he said.

The collection contains paintings, drawings, prints and photographs sourced from the Musee D’Orsay and other international galleries such as The Tate in London and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition will also be presented alongside the NGV’s current collection of Bonnard’s paintings, such as the notable La Siesta (1900).

 

The exhibition offers patrons the chance to intimately experience late 19th century and 20th-century French life via more than 100 of Bonnard’s artworks coupled with the ethereal scenography of India Mahdavi.

 

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) excelled in using colour and texture to represent emotion. Bonnard allegedly aimed for his paintings to feature “colour that drives one wild”.

His works generally depict quotidian domestic scenes and natural landscapes. Many have applauded Bonnard for how his use of colour imbues everyday life with an air of sublimity and serenity, which led Henry Matisse to praise the artist as a “great painter for today, and into the future”.

Bonnard was also a core member of the Paris-based circle of artists known as “The Nabis”, who came to prominence in the late 1880s. Artists such as Maurice Denis, Felix Vallotton and Edouard Vuillard were also involved in the movement. The Nabis sought to produce modern art that spanned multiple mediums such as interior design, furniture, stained glass, and commercial advertising.

India Mahdavi has appeared multiple times on Architectural Digest’s list of the world’s 100 most influential architects and designers, alongside recently receiving the title of “Designer of the Year” at the 2023 Wallpaper Design Awards. She also earned the moniker of a “professor of perfect chromatic pitch” by The New Yorker.

Ms Mahdavi said the marriage between Bonnard’s use of colour and her scenography would offer a three-dimensional “immersive experience of a home to the visitor”. Her scenography is anchored in a deep appreciation for art history and contemporary culture.

Isabelle Cahn, emeritus senior curator of paintings at the Musee D’Orsay, said Bonnard’s

“universal vision of space and time” rendered his work eternally meaningful.

“The power of his talent is expressed through intimate subjects which are accessible to all,” Ms Cahn said.

Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi is on display from June 9 to October 8 at NGV International, St Kilda Rd, Southbank.

ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/pierre-bonnard

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