Musée d'Orsay: Nabis and decoration. Bonnard, Vuillard, Maurice Denis...

Nabis and decoration. Bonnard, Vuillard, Maurice Denis...

Edouard VuillardJardins publics : la promenade© The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The contribution of the Nabis to the decorative arts, although vital, is still not well known. The question of the decorative as a fundamental principle of the unity of creation was established when the group formed in the late 1880s, by artists who wanted to break down the barrier between fine art and the applied arts.

True pioneers of modern decoration, Bonnard, Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Sérusier, Ranson and Vallotton defended an art form that was linked directly to life. They created original, joyous, rhythmic works intended to brighten up contemporary interiors, a reaction against the pastiche aesthetic that was then in fashion.

The decorative art of the Nabis was not a response to any pre-existing aesthetic doctrine, but expresses the imaginative fantasy of the artists and the boldness of their research into form. This total art experience was based on the removal of barriers between techniques and the influence of Japan. Captivated by the Japanese prints discovered at an exhibition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1890, the Nabis took inspiration from these flat images to interpret reality. By proscribing illusionist imitation and affirming the natural two-dimensionality of the support, they developed an ornamental art with simplified forms, supple lines, and motifs without modelling, saturating the space. Their compositions are characterised by the use of bright colours, undulating lines, flat perspective and shapes with thick outlines to make them stand out better from the background. The Nabis received many commissions for private decorations and for the Art Nouveau Gallery, some of which have been reconstructed for this exhibition.


Isabelle Cahn, general curator, Musée d'Orsay
Guy Cogeval, director of the Centre d'études des Nabis et du symbolisme

This exhibition was organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux and the Public Establishment of the Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie.

12 March - 30 June 2019

Paris, Musée du Luxembourg

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Print