Les Nabis Revisited

Decorative art by “Nabis” artists such as Bonnard, Valloton, Vuillard and Sérusier is the subject of “Les Nabis el le Décor” at the Musée du Luxembourg. It includes ceramics, textiles, wallpaper project proposals and decorative panels commissioned by the artists’ friends and patrons (until June 30, 2019). The exhibition accompanies another “Nabis” themed exhibition in town at the Musée d’Orsay “Le Talisman Sérusier, une prophéte de la couleur” (until June 02, 2019).

During the summer of 1888, a group of artists from the Julian Academy who shared the same artistic concerns united under the name “Nabis,” meaning prophet in Hebrew. Enthusiasts of symbolic literature and esoteric texts, they met for dinners during which they discussed and defined a new style of painting. Paul Sérusier soon became an emblematic figure in the group with his painting “The Talisman” (1888), which he had famously painted on a cigar box during his stay in Pont-Aven with advice from Paul Gauguin. Legend has it that Gauguin instructed the young Sérusier: “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. Well then, put down yellow. And that shadow is rather blue? So render it with pure-ultramarine. Those red leaves? Use vermilion.”

The Nabis—whether in relation to the mystical branch (Denis, Sérusier, Ranson), influenced by early Tuscan painters and Byzantine art, or the modern branch (Bonnard, Valloton, Vuillard), inspired by Japanese prints and photography— paved the way for the early 20th-century development of abstract art.

“Les Nabis el le Décor” at the Musée du Luxembourg, until June 30, 2019 and “Le Talisman Sérusier, une prophéte de la couleur” until June 02, 2019 at Musée d’Orsay, Paris.