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.
CuratorsIsabelle 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.