is an online magazine of the literary arts.

2 September 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 3

from The Glass Age

Bonnard: Boulevard des Batignolles 1926

We are standing in a window, looking out at windows. The windows on the other side are blind. They are on the other side. To look out is to see; to look in, to turn slowly white.


Bonnard painted a series from 1895 to 97 that explores the potential of windows looking into windows. When we see only the windows, there's something in them; when we also see the street, the windows are blank—something has slipped, is now offset, and now the street and the windows comprise a single living thing, which makes it come out in color.


Bonnard's double fixation: saturated color and utter transparency. Not so much opposites as an immanent collision of the present until it's tangible. Cracked open to reveal at its center a verb. A marrow of glass at the heart of every wall, early windows were sometimes made of bone, scraped. Shell. Alabaster skull.

Behind which the mind paces, glimpses the shadow of a man, hands raised in any number of gestures phrased, stormed.


By drenching glass in color, Bonnard split it lengthwise, prophetic, Gauguinic, flayed, and so ushered it into the 20th century, where the window finally came into its own, Wittgenstein's sister's house in Vienna; Duchamp's Large Glass. Incandescent. A window is a magnet

for color, and as white is the presence of all colors, a window acts as an inverse prism, gathering the intense pigments of the fractured world back into a clarity of unrestricted light.


I often see reflections cross

non-reflective surfaces


They swept the light up from the floors, stored it in stone jars, which by morning,

               What light has seen

the jars were empty

               it keeps no sketch

returned to quartz and so disappeared in the busy afternoon.

Bonnard saw in the window not a contradiction, but a solid object that could lead you through itself in the dark.