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Entries in Les Nabis (9)


Pierre Bonnard: The Spirit of the Moment

Pierre Bonnard - The Checkered Blouse - 1892 - Oil on canvas - Height: 61 cm (24.02 in.), Width: 33 cm (12.99 in.) - Musée d’Orsay - Paris (click photo for larger image)French painter and printmaker, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) member of the group of artists called Les Nabis, and afterward a leader of the Intimists. Bonnard is generally regarded as one of the greatest colorists of modern art. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts, but, failing to win the Prix de Rome (a prize to study at the French Academy in Rome), he transferred to the Académie Julian, where he came into contact with some of the major figures of the new artistic generation. 

During the 1890s Bonnard became one of the leading members of the Nabis, a group of artists who specialized in painting intimate domestic scenes as well as decorative curvilinear compositions akin to those produced by painters of the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. Bonnard painted many of his scenes from memory, capturing the spirit of the moment rather than the exact person or place. Bonnard did not paint from life but rather drew his subjects - sometimes photographing them as well - and made notes on the colors. He then painted - and especially, colored - the canvas in his studio from his notes.


Édouard Vuillard: An Intimist

Édouard Vuillard – The Album – 1895 – Oil on Canvas - 26 3/4 x 80 1/2 in. (67.9 x 204.5 cm) – Metropolitan Museum of Art (click photo for larger image)French Symbolist painter Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) was a member of the Symbolist group known as Les Nabis (from the Hebrew and Arabic term for "prophets" and, by extension, the artist as the "seer" who reveals the invisible). However, he was less drawn to the mystical aspects of the group and more attracted to fashionable private venues, where philosophical discussions about poetry, music, theatre, and the occult occurred. Because of his preference for painting interior and domestic scenes, Vuillard is often referred to as an "intimist".

The work featured here is best described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

In 1894–95, Thadée and Misia Natanson commissioned from Vuillard a series of five decorative panels known collectively as "The Album." The unusual character of these works matched that of the Natansons' Paris apartment, a large open space adjoined by several small alcove areas. Its unconventional decor reflected Misia's taste, which was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. The apartment often served as an alternative office for Thadée's lively avant-garde journal, "La Revue blanche." Among the contributors to this influential publication were Claude Debussy, Léon Blum, Stéphane Mallarmé, and André Gide. The evocative Symbolist qualities of Mallarmé's poetry and Debussy's music find echoes in Vuillard's five panels, which take their name from this painting.

You can read more about the Symbolists and Vuillard on this site. Just search “Symbolists” and “Vuillard” and you find several articles of interest.


Jan Verkade: Dutch Post Impressionist and Symbolist

Jan Verkade - Decorative Landscape - 1891 - Oil on panel - Nationalmuseum - Stockholm (click photo for larger image)Jan Verkade (a/k/a Johannes Sixtus Gerhardus Verkade) (1868-1946) was a pivotal Dutch Post-Impressionist artist and a talented Christian Symbolist painter. His spiritual journey eventually led him to become a Benedictine monk, and he continued painting throughout his religious career.

In the work featured here, it is very easy to see the influence of Paul Gauguin. In his earlier days, he was closely associated with the Les Nabis group of artists.


The Golden Age of Illustration

Howard Pyle - The Wonder Clock, or Four and Twenty Marvelous Tales: Title page - 1887 - Pen and black ink on paper - sheet: 10 1/4 x 7 1/16 in. (26 x 17.9 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NYThe Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration. It developed from advances in technology allowing for the accurate and affordable reproduction of art, combined with a voracious public demand for new graphic art.

In Europe, Golden Age artists were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement, as well as by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis.

American illustration of this period was anchored by the Brandywine Valley tradition, begun by Howard Pyle (1853-1911) and carried on by his students, who included N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), among others.

Pyle's oft-quoted advice to his students was, “Throw your heart into the picture and then jump in after it”. One biographer has described Pyle as having, “fought, sang, struggled and sobbed through his work.”. He paid close attention to historical detail and often painted live models wearing period costumes. Pyle published some 3,300 illustrations during his 35 year career.


Pierre Bonnard: Simple Scenes in Outstanding Color 

Pierre Bonnard - The Letter - 1906 - Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (click photo for larger image)French painter Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was a member of the group known as Les Nabis (prophets or seers) which was part of the broader group of Symbolists. Les Nabis painters subscribed to a doctrine of abandoning three-dimensional modeling in favor of flat color areas.

Although Bonnard was a member of this group, he was not interested in obscure Symbolist subject matter and was not a mystic. Rather, he took delight in painting the scenes of simple daily life that surrounded him. Color was an end in itself for him—a way of experiencing the world. He would sometimes go back and touch up his other paintings with a new color he’d formulated. He even once persuaded his friend, artist Édouard Vuillard, to distract one of the guards in a museum while he touched up a work that had been completed years before!