Letters Between Friends


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The letters exchanged between Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse from 1925 to 1946 attest to a forty-year friendship between two of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Beginning with the splendid “Vive la peinture! [Long live painting!’” that Matisse flings to Bonnard, this volume documents an extraordinary correspondence between these two great masters who respected and liked one another—and each other’s work.

Antoine Terrasse, Bonnard’s great-nephew and author of Abrams’ Pierre Bonnard: Illustrator, writes in his introduction that Bonnard and Matisse “have the same painterly intelligence. They share the same absolute conviction that the painting must live a life of its own.” These letters reveal that the two men shared’a similar vision of art, that rather than being the exceptional expression of genius, painting remained for them a vocation, the stubborn, patient, even obscure exercise of a calling. Terrasse adds, “it is no accident that both painters hit upon the subject of the open window, which brings the outdoors into the interior of the canvas.” In the course of the book we also read of their travels, of news about other artists such as Paul Gauguin and Paul Klee, and of their families.

Black-and-white photographs, many taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, depict Bonnard and Matisse at work. at home and with friends; reproductions of paintings and prints mentioned in the text are also included. Rendered into English by the renowned poet and translator Richard Howard, these letters portray two artists who unselfconsciously write about their work and their lives as they grow into old age. Their charming, civilized correspondence offers new insights into two men of genius who created some of the treasures of modern art.

Letters Between Friends, Bonnard/Matisse, Harry N. Abrams, 1992

Paperback. Octavo. Minor shelf wear. Good condition. 23 black-and-white illustrations. Dual-language text. 133 pp.