Re-discovering the Nabi Painters

Denis, La Couronne de MargueriteDenis, La Route au CalvaireSerusier, Le Talisman

If you are unfamiliar with any late-nineteenth century art movement but Impressionism, I invite you to explore the paintings of the post-impressionist Nabi group. Similar to the art nouveau decorative aesthetic, the Nabis (a name that means “prophet” in Hebrew) broke with naturalism to paint subjects beyond the visible. Paul Sérusier even went so far as to paint a proto-abstract work inspired by Gauguin’s theories and entitled The Talisman.

The youngest member of the group, Maurice Denis, was also the group’s theorist. Denis wrote in his journal from age 15 about a rebirth in painting, and one that would push the religious experience into the modern world. In his work we see this combination of the modern aesthetic and spiritual subject matter. The Musée d’Orsay is showing room after room of his paintings from 1889 to 1941, in an exhibition that ends January 21. It is well worth the extra euro or two.

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