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.
Southgate MT. The Letter. JAMA. 1999;282(11):1017. doi:10.1001/jama.282.11.1017
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