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Paris Art Exhibition

Bonnard, Vuillard and other Nabis' decorative art heralds Spring at Luxembourg Museum

Room with a view: from the Musée du Luxembourg exhibition, a screen painted by Pierre Bonnard.
Room with a view: from the Musée du Luxembourg exhibition, a screen painted by Pierre Bonnard. Siegfried Forster / RFI
Text by: Rosslyn Hyams
3 min

Les Nabis et le décor exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, in the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris till the end of June, is set in a very fitting place. The colourful and floral creativity of 19th century works by the so-called 'Prophets' flows almost seamlessly into the public garden itself.

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Les Nabis were a group of avant-garde post-impressionist French artists, most of them known for the flattened look of their paintings, some crammed with detail and design. They also had no fear of juxtaposing strong colours or playing with shades of one overriding hue applied with a thousand brush stokes as in Pierre Bonnard's 'Apple Picking' series.

'Apple Picking' (circa. 1895) a series by Pierre Bonnard, at the exhibition, The Nabis and the Decorative Arts, in Paris
'Apple Picking' (circa. 1895) a series by Pierre Bonnard, at the exhibition, The Nabis and the Decorative Arts, in Paris Siegfried Forster / RFI

Other paintings went crazy with patterns inspired by nature, and involved the liberal use of the arabesque for, as the name suggests, decoration as well as ornamentation.

Over ten years, from the end of the 19th century till the very early years of the 20th, their work spilled over the edge of painting frames.

In fact, the idea of this exhibition is to show how their work was adpated or applied to screens, wallpaper and also to wall panels, tapestries, ceramics, woodwork or stained-glass windows.

Curator Isabelle Cahn stands in front of a cartoon for a stained-glass window, Les Marroniers by Edouard Vuillard, from the The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund Inc at Dallas Museum of Art
Curator Isabelle Cahn stands in front of a cartoon for a stained-glass window, Les Marroniers by Edouard Vuillard, from the The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund Inc at Dallas Museum of Art Rosslyn Hyams/RFI/2019

Naming the Nabis

Some of the artists' names may be familiar such as Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier and Paul-Elie Ranson.

Other members of the group were Vuillard's brother-in-law Ker-Xavier Roussel and the Franco-Swiss Félix Vallotton.

None of them has generated the world-wide appeal of their French impressionist cousin, Claude Monet.

The artists in this group gave themselves the aim of renewing and liberating artistic expression and vision.

Major sources of inspiration for the Nabis were Britain's John Ruskin and William Morris. Contemporary Japanese art was also an inspiration and the exhibition displays works from four Utagawas . . . Kunisada, Kuniyoshi, Sadakage and Yoshimura.

Japanese artists influenced French artists like the Nabis
Japanese artists influenced French artists like the Nabis Rosslyn Hyams/RFI 2019

The exhibition highlights these applied arts. Les Nabis and le décor, at Musée de Luxembourg in Paris, ends on 30 June 2019.

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