French painter and graphic artist, regarded as one of the greatest colourists of modern art.
Having failed as a law student in Paris, Bonnard studied art against family opposition and in 1889 sold his first poster design. Until the early years of the twentieth century he was a leading member of the Nabis (a group that included Édouard Vuillard (1868–1940), producing posters, screens, theatre designs, and illustrations as well as lithographs of Parisian figures and street life, which used simplified flat forms and decorative line and colour.
Around 1905 Bonnard began to concentrate on painting. His intimate paintings of figures in sunlit domestic interiors, such as The Breakfast (1907), are vivid in colour with echoes of impressionism. Together with Vuillard's works they were largely responsible for popularizing postimpressionism throughout Europe. From 1910 Bonnard made regular visits to the south of France, where he painted landscapes in less sumptuous colours that still owed much to the impressionist tradition. He also gave greater attention to the structural quality of his work.
Bonnard refused the Légion d'honneur in 1912. From the 1920s until the end of his life he exhibited widely in Europe and the USA, working mainly as a painter with occasional commissions for illustrations. His Getting Out of the Bath (1930) and Nude in the Bath (1946) are characteristic of his later work, in which colours are heavier and brighter, producing even richer and more sumptuous colour relationships.