Pierre Bonnard. Earthly Paradise, 1916/20. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, estate of Joanne Toor Cummings; Bette and Neison Harris and Searle Family Trust endowments; through prior gifts of Mrs. Henry C. Woods (cat. no. 52)

This richly colored canvas is one of four decorative panels commissioned for the Paris home of Pierre Bonnard’s dealers Josse and Gaston Bernheim. (Two of the other panels, Pastoral Symphony and Workers on the Seine, are also in the exhibition.) The lush outdoor setting is filled with Biblical allusions to Eden: the nude couple perhaps symbolize Adam and Eve surrounded by numerous animals, including a monkey, birds, rabbits, and a snake (spiraling around a branch on the far right). The implied tension between the remote and distant man, standing against a tree, and the seductively posed, reclining woman suggests the Biblical fall from grace, and may also allude to a tumultuous romance in Bonnard’s own life. The painter communicated his smoldering vision of a lost paradise withthe brilliant, saturated hues and fluid brushwork that hearken back to Impressionism.

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