Heighten the Hues

“I am still cohabiting with your mysterious and alluring canvas.

— Matisse in a letter to Bonnard

Bonnard’s Woman in a Checked Dress is a study for one of four panels that were displayed at the 1890 Salon des Independants. That same year, he had attended an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints at the École des Beaux-Arts and was collecting decorative papers from Japan. The patterns on these papers, used as cheap wrappers for imported Asian novelties, and the visual elements of ukiyo-e prints inspired him to consider the expressive qualities of color. The series Women in a Garden applies the flat planes of color, verticality, and cut-off compositions to a European woman in a garden at Le Grand-Lemps.
An illustrated essay about the Japanese influence on Bonnard:

The Red-Checkered Tablecloth was painted the year he moved to the south of France, where he could indulge his love of color in the luscious atmosphere. He depicted ordinary domestic settings and landscapes through his own perspective and sense of light.

His unorthodox method of working included tacking various, unstretched pieces of canvas on the wall as he worked on several of them at a time.

Bonnard and Matisse exchanged a letter correspondence throughout their careers, especially when they were both no longer in Paris. They had mutual respect for each other and exchanged current thoughts on art amidst remarks about their health and the gorgeous weather.