Monday, January 7, 2008

Les Nabis

In the 1890s a group of artists banded together in Paris. They called themselves Nabis, Hebrew for “prophets.” They were unified by a dislike of impressionism, a major art movement of the time as you have seen elsewhere in the blog. The Nabis thought the impressionists wanted only to capture fleeting moments on canvas. The Nabis wanted to create something they felt was more meaningful: they wanted to cause spiritual reactions in the viewers of their work.

What the Nabi paintings truly had in common, though, was a use of bold but muted colors used in unexpected ways to show real scenes and objects in unrealistic ways. They were greatly influenced by Paul Gauguin, much of whose work can be described just that way. Below is his Self Portrait with Halo in which you see the bold, primary colors placed next to each other in a way that should be overwhelming but isn’t. This was painted in 1889.
Also notice the serpent and the apple. Remind you of the story of Adam and Eve?

Paul Serusier loved Gauguin’s style and founded the Nabi Movement based on it. Serusier painted a wildly colorful landscape on the lid of a cigar box and thus began the movement. The Nabis called it “the talisman.” It is the painting shown below.
Serusier was able to attract many members to the new style of painting. In the next week I’ll post on some of these artists, as well as on Serusier.

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Peter said...

Good idea to talk about this movement, a bit less known, but with some remarkable artists!

Jessica Camis said...

Thanks. I thought so, too. There's enough of a background posted elsewhere in the blog that a reader should be able follow along. I hope to explore more of these lesser known movements and artists this year.