The Nabis by Albert Kostenevich
By Albert Kostenevich
Exploring intimately the interesting staff of artists often called the Nabis, this name specializes in the origins of the collective, in addition to analyzing essentially the most well-liked artists.
The team --
Major artists. Félix Vallotton --
Ker Xavier Roussel --
Pierre Bonnard --
Édouard Vuillard --
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And as the century advanced, the amazing originality of the most significant artist of the group, Bonnard, became even more evident. Today there can be no doubt that he ranks among the most remarkable artists of the twentieth century. His canvases reflect his own time, as do those of other artists of his circle. Painting had made itself the image of the age. The image had many facets: poetic and simple, full of wonder in Bonnard’s work; excessively ornamental and therefore somewhat mysterious in Vuillard’s; voluptuously dream-like in Denis’s; somewhat bitter and acerbic in Vallotton’s.
9 Not only Puvis de Chavannes’ murals in the Pantheon but also his easel paintings were seen as a lesson in decorative art. Gauguin made a copy of his Hope, and later, on Tahiti, painted two versions of A Poor Fisherman, a work (now in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris) which was also copied by Maillol, who was close to the Nabis. 10 It is worth noting that the study for this picture was among the early purchases made by Sergei Shchukin. The deliberately restrained work of Puvis de Chavannes, by no means as daring in colour as the canvases of Manet, Monet or Degas, was destined to become a kind of banner for the following generation of artists.
This conception is fraught with inconsistencies. Can the Nabis circle be regarded as a distinct movement? Yes and no. Some common features may be traced in their work, but the kinship between them is at two removes, if not more. It is not by chance that at some recent exhibitions painters of this group have been ascribed to different movements. For example, works by Denis, Sérusier and even Vallotton were included in the widely representative exhibition of European Symbolism held in 1975-76 in Rotterdam, Brussels, Baden-Baden and Paris,3 while neither Bonnard, Vuillard nor Roussel were featured.