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Les Nabis

March 27, 2015

You know how sometimes one thing leads to another? This time my starting point was House & Garden magazine. In one of their articles, about a Belgian artist’s home and studio (pages 10-11), I found an unknown art term – Les Nabis (pronounced nah-BEE). Sounds familiar? Not to me…

Apparently Les Nabis was an art group, a group of artists whose “aesthetic philosophy was to remove the boundaries between decorative art and easel painting, while also injecting art with literary or other narrative meaning. And Realism in art was set aside in favour of decorative symbolism. Not content solely with oil painting, the group branched out into stained glass art, fans, tapestry, furniture, mosaic art, lithographic prints, poster art, puppets, book illustration and theatrical set designs.” (Art Encyclopedia)

As I keep jumping from photography to painting, from knitting to drawing, from printmaking to paper crafts, no wonder I found their philosophy very appealing and, of course, had to find out a bit more.

— — —

Les Nabis were a group of Post-Impressionist avant-garde artists who set the pace for fine arts and graphic arts in France in the 1890s. Initially a group of friends interested in contemporary art and literature, most of them studied at the private art school of Rodolphe Julian (Académie Julian) in Paris in the late 1880s.” (Wikipedia)

“The name Nabis derived from the Hebrew for ‘prophets’, and was coined by the poet Henri Cazalis, who compared the way the group aimed to revitalise painting as prophets of modern art, with how the ancient prophets had rejuvenated Israel.” (Art Encyclopedia)

Pierre Bonnard - Rue Tholozé (ca. 1895) - image was found here

Pierre Bonnard – Rue Tholozé (ca. 1895) – image was found here

Pierre Bonnard - The Port of Cannes (1926-1927) - image was found here

Pierre Bonnard – The Port of Cannes (1926-1927) – image was found here

The core of Les Nabis were – Pierre Bonnard, Ker Xavier Roussel, Felix Vallotton, Maurice Denis and Edouard Vuillard.

Felix Vallotton - Le Haut-de-forme, intérieur ou La Visite (1887)

Felix Vallotton – Le Haut-de-forme, intérieur ou La Visite (1887) – image was found here

“Les Nabis rebelled against the confines of academic art …, dabbled in mysticism and symbolism, and sought a universal form of painting that placed more importance on a painting’s decorative presentation, paying special attention to the emotional use of colour and linear distortion.” (Art Encyclopedia)

Maurice Denis - Wave 1916; image was found here

Maurice Denis – Wave (1916) – image was found here

Les Nabis slowly disbanded in 1899. Some of the artists stuck to the original ideas, yet Bonnard and Vuillard collaborated in the development of a new style called Intimism – a style of decorative interior scenes (this might be a brilliant topic for another post though).

Edouard Vuillard - The Flowered Dress (1891) - image was found here

Edouard Vuillard – The Flowered Dress (1891) – image was found here

Edouard Vuillard - Le Pot de fleurs [Pot of Flowers] (1900) - image was found here

Edouard Vuillard – Le Pot de fleurs (1900) – image was found here

— — —

What started with House & Garden magazine will have to end somewhere… Hopefully it will be a new painting with loads of bright colours and no academic rules (not that I know many), probably an interior scene with some decorative symbolism. Time will show.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2015 7:43 pm

    Oooo! Art history!

  2. March 27, 2015 7:45 pm

    I love the Vuillard interior scenes. He used shadow and light. Complexity in the focal areas with patterns, and simplicity of shape and values and non-patterned materials to create the areas that set-off the part of the painting he wants us to look at. Dark vs light, simplicity vs complexity, texture vs non-textured. Lack of detail in the shadow areas. Stunning pieces.

  3. March 27, 2015 7:48 pm

    and repetition! he repeats the patterned dress in the mirror. He repeats the bell-shape of the pink flowers in the chaises lounge slip-cover. Each piece has its own tone, one of greens and one of lavenders, lending to mood and unity.

  4. March 31, 2015 4:37 pm

    Interesting post. I like the sound of Les Nabis – any artists who are somewhat eclectic in their approach get my thumbs up. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • April 1, 2015 3:48 pm

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment – love reading various opinions. Glad you liked my post and I agree that eclectic approach is always a good idea. Kristina

  5. April 2, 2015 8:01 pm

    New to me too; they say every day’s a school day and I look forward to seeing how you’re inspired 🙂 x

    • April 4, 2015 5:17 pm

      You are right, Lisa, every day is a school day and, strangely, I love it! K. xxx

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