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The Cover
September 15, 1999

The Letter

JAMA. 1999;282(11):1017. doi:10.1001/jama.282.11.1017

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) came of age in a world in which Impressionism was already passé and painting stood on the verge of Picasso. Born into a well-to-do family who lived on a comfortable estate near Paris, Bonnard's father was an official in the War Ministry and wished his son to become a lawyer. Young Bonnard, on the other hand, wished to follow what he perceived as the glamorous world of art. He wished, as he later recalled, "to escape from a monotonous existence." Artists, as he saw it, had the "freedom to live as one pleased." The issue was settled when the young man failed the bar exam: art had prevailed, if only by default, and Bonnard, who already had been taking art classes at the Académie Julian, was free to follow his heart. It is impossible, of course, to know what kind of success he might have had had he passed the bar, but, in the main, posterity seems to have had the better part of the bargain.