Here, Bonnard seeks to convince us of the actuality of the existence of this image in the real world. We are to believe then, that he, as a painter, is merely pointing out to the viewer the miracle of the painting he has 'found' in the mirror. The informality of the composition, the deliberately undistinguished account of the objects on the dressing table, and the seemingly arbitrary cropping--all these are calculated intellectual decisions meant to encourage our belief in the passivity of the artist and his insistence that he is merely revealing his world as it exists. The finding of the image in the mirror becomes a metaphor for the way Bonnard sees himself as making art, for the way he 'finds' a painting.
The nature of material reality and the nature of perception are being simultaneously questioned and examined. Bonnard mixes up our order of perception. The conventional heirarchy of one's experience of reality is inverted so that the reflection in the mirror of the dressing table which reveals a simple interior---a window with a blowing curtain, a bed, and in the far corner the high-breasted torso and long legs of Marthe, barely visible--has a depth and clarity of contour, a greater painted 'reality' than the dressing table and still-life which, ostensibly, exist in palpable space. The dressing table is painted with a soft, feathery touch--the whites and blue-whites create a sense of hovering weightlessness versus the stronger-hued and more emphatically defined shapes in the mirror's reflection. Slowly, one becomes aware of the multiplication of realities, all equal, all different, represented by the different types of windows--the canvas itself, the mirror and the actual window to the outdoors reflected in the mirror."
--Sasha M. Newman, Bonnard: The Late Paintings
|Pierre Bonnard, Dressing Table and Mirror, oil on canvas, 1913|
|Pierre Bonnard, Effet de Glace (or Le Tub), oil on canvas, 1909|