Born in 1891, Bendall trained as a painter during 1910-1914 at the Bordeaux ‘Ecole des Beaux-Arts’, whilst simultaneously attending private art classes of local fashionable painter Félix Carme. Bendall’s early paintings emulate the ‘Chardinesque’ style of her tutor, conforming to the prevalent Academism of the time. When in 1914 her ‘Coin de salon bordelais’ won a first in the ‘Peinture au Palmarès de l’Union Féminine de Bordeaux’ critics hailed it as ‘worthy of Félix Carme’. It is exemplary of the taste of the local bourgeoisie, clearly in stark contrast with the existing avant-garde movements of the then world art capital, Paris. Nonetheless, it shows Bendall’s solid grounding in drawing, technique and composition, which would later earn her the respect of Henri Matisse and Albert Marquet.
Following her formal training, Bendall travelled around France, drawing and painting the local landscapes and architecture. She toured the Cote d’Azur, the Alps, the Dordogne and the Périgord; her summers were spent at the family holiday home in l’Herbe, an idyllic oyster village in the Bassin d’Arcachon, from where she painted some of her most enchanting coastal views. At home in Bordeaux, she continued to paint her traditional still-lifes. Her paintings of this period were exhibited at the local Bordeaux ‘Salon des Beaux Arts’ and in 1919 the Bordeaux ‘Musée des Beaux-Arts’ purchased Roses dans un Vase.
In 1920, Bendall gained admission to the ‘Salon des Artistes Français’ in Paris, which eventually prompted her move to Paris during 1927-1928. It was her time at the ‘Academie de la Grande Chaumière’ in Montparnasse that brought about a new vision into her style. At the time, the ‘Academie de la Grande Chaumière ‘was a free academy, allowing artists to visit and work according to their own schedule and potential. It was here that the Eastern European émigrés congregated, alongside French avant-garde painters including Georges Braque, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, Fernand Léger, Albert Marquet and Henri Matisse, forming the core of what later became known as the ‘Ecole de Paris’.
Her friendship with Matisse in particular left a lasting influence on Bendall and her work. She was especially taken with the great master’s ‘Fauve’ ideas on colour as building blocks for form and space and expression of emotions. A marriage proposal by Matisse’s son Paul prompted her return to Bordeaux. Here, Bendall would suggest to her own pupils to ‘think of suggesting space and volume by colour and not by adding black or white as one did at the ‘Ecole des Beaux Arts’. Simply look for the colours that create the sensations you feel’.
Under Matisse’s guidance, Bendall became an active force of the avant-garde in Bordeaux, and built a real exchange between the provincial capital and Paris. In 1928, she helped to found the ‘Artistes Indépendents bordelais’ as a counter-movement against traditional Academism. Under her influence Bonnard, Braque, Utrillo, Matisse and Picasso all submitted paintings to its yearly exhibitions. In 1929, Bendall was also a founding member of ‘Le Studio’, a free and loosely grouped academy, much in the spirit of the legendary ‘Académie de la Grande Chaumière’ in Paris and the first to provide life-drawing classes in Bordeaux.
In 1937, the Galerie de Paris, in Paris exhibited her work in ‘Jeune France’, alongside canvasses by Kees Van Dongen, Raoul Dufy and Max Jacob. The ‘Musée National d’Art Moderne’, Paris purchased ‘Bouquet à la table ronde’.
Following the Second World War and until her death in 1977, Bendall continued to develop her style, now introducing lyrical abstraction. These bright rhythms are often inspired by crustaceans, leaves or even sails of yacht regattas. At the same time, Bendall continued figuration in the form of unusual under-water scenes of exotic fish as well as views of La Rochelle harbour.
Throughout her artistic development, Bendall remained true to colour and strong composition, creating paintings, which are always richly decorative and sumptuous, evidence of her own visual enjoyment of nature and its satisfying harmonies. Her art stems from a place which Charles Baudelaire so accurately described as: “Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté, luxe, calme et volupté.”
Public collections include
Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
2009, Mildred Bendall, Galerie du Post-Impressionism, Paris
2008, Mildred Bendall (1891-1977): a Retrospective Exhibition, Partridge Fine Art, London (1-26 April)
1998, Mildred Bendall: Exhibition of Selected Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Whitford Fine Art, London (6 -29 May)
1996, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Mildred Bendall, Whitford Fine Art, London (6 June - 5 July)
1987, Mildred Bendall: An Exhibition of Selected Works from the Artist’s Studio, Whitford and Hughes, London (19 Oct. - 27 Nov)
1981, Mildred Bendall 1891-1978: Rétrospective, Peintures, Société Artistique de la ville de Mérignac, Mérignac (24 April - 30 May)
1961, Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux (Studies of Eyzies Grottos)
1960, Peintures récentes de Mildred Bendall, Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux (8 - 23 Oct)
1958, Mildred Bendall, Galerie de l’Ami des Lettres, Bordeaux
1955, Mildred Bendall, Galerie de l’Ami des Lettres, Bordeaux (3 - 16 Dec)
1954, Bendall, Bateaux-Bouquets, Galerie de l’Ami des Lettres, Bordeaux
1951, Mildred Bendall, Galerie de l’Ami des Lettres, Bordeaux
1942, Bendall, Galerie Chappe-Lautier, Toulouse
1937, 25 Bouquets de Mildred Bendall, Galerie de Paris, Paris (5 - 20 May)
1961, Cheval, Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux; Fleurs, Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux; Hommage aux Provinces Francaises, Casino Bellevue, Biarritz
1960, L’eau, Galerie du Fleuve, Bordeaux
1955, Le Regard, Bordeaux
1955/29, Salon des Indépendants bordelais, Société des Artistes Indépendants, Bordeaux
1944, Salon des Provinces françaises, Paris
1944/40, Salon des sociétés artistiques de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
1935/12, Salon des Amis des Arts, Bordeaux
1927/21/20, Salon des Artistes français, Paris
1914, Salon de l’Union Féminine, Bordeaux