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This report is taken from PN Review 103, Volume 21 Number 5, May - June 1995.

Aline's Uncle Bonnard David Arkell

Last year's Bannard show at the Hayward cut le ice when compared to the great exhibition of 1966: for two months at the Royal Academy (January-March) it saw us through the last dismal months of a London winter, transforming the town with glorious colour and introducing many of us for the first time to the mysterious Marthe.

A fascinating game was to construct an exhibition within an exhibition, consisting solely of Marthe 'portraits'. My own provisional count was 64 to 67 out of 250 canvasses, beginning with her first timid appearance amid the foliage of No 21. (Soon she is reigning supreme as L'Indolente, spread lazily across the Master's bed!) And so we follow her cascading curls into the twentieth century, where they soon become a fashionable bob. And all the time she is washing fervently but the plumbing becomes ever more affluent - from tin tubs to Ie tout confort. The north wall of Room V is her apotheosis: five paintings at various ages show her always triumphant and always young. For Bannard's vision at a certain point seems to blur: unwilling for her ever to age he begins to dissolve her into pure paint, until in the last extraordinary bathscape (Na 237) she is almost invisible.

Bannard had met her in 1894, when he helped her to cross the boulevard Haussmann. Her tiny skill at that time, exerdsed in a nearby shop, on the corner of the rue Pasquier, was threading beads on ...


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