March 3, 2019

9.00 am: Out of the hotel onto the street, the bus, the train, the tube to Tate Modern and the Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory exhibition. No sex, self-harming, brutality, death, murder, and mutilation here (which things were the stuff of the other exhibitions that I’d seen this weekend).

This was a essay, rather, on domestic contentment, quiet joys, simple pleasures, and expressions of a committed couple’s happiness. Of course there was messiness, conflict, and betrayals in the shadows. They’re part of the chiaroscuro of our being. They often accompany a life-lived fiercely, in the realisation that every day and everything in it counts, and this is your only chance to make something extraordinary out of them.

Bonnard was a consummate colourist and designer. The straightforwardness of the subject matter was underpinned by a sophisticated and calculated formality – one that clearly influenced Richard Diebenkorn’s painting. Bonnard’s love affair with his partner and, subsequently, wife provided the mainspring of his endeavour. He was a lover, and then a painter. She was his muse; her body, his worshipful delight. Her generosity to us, through him, was enormous. They were collaborators.

I took at early lunch at a Japanese restaurant on the corner of Chinatown:

Before setting off for the railway station and saying goodbye to my elder son, we drank together at a café close to Leicester Square. From the window, I could see a prostitute ply her trade in a narrow doorway, and her ‘clients’ furtively climb the shabby red-walled staircase which opened onto the street. Above the street level there’d, no doubt, be naked women in rooms (more Sickert than Bonnard). The engagements and negotiations would be functional and business like. Money in exchange for gratification. Pure and simple. No love; only lust. No long-term commitment; just a moment, and then the guilt (maybe). I thought again of Bonnard and his wife: his tender eye, his brush’s caress across her painterly flesh, and his insatiable and respectful curiosity about every curve of her body.

2.40 pm: I took the train from Euston, with the unwelcome prospect of a bus ride from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth due to rail works.

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