Painting: The Distant Witness

Pierre Bonnard called himself "the last impressionist," but in the throes of creation he was more like the first action painter. He would tack a huge canvas on a wall and, striding back and forth, begin jabbing spots of paint in a dozen places. After days of vigorous work, a nude emerged here, a still life there. Then he cut the paintings apart, stretched them into tambourines of jin gling color.

Whether or not Bonnard was behind or before his time, his retrospective show at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art,-with 83 oils and...