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Artists' association

1888 / 1889 in Paris
1905 in Paris


The young art student Paul Sérusier was at the centre of the artists’ group known as the Nabis, which was formed in 1888 in Paris. The name they chose for themselves derives from the Hebrew word for prophet and aims to emphasise the holistic, reformatory and spiritual art trend they pursued. Profoundly influenced by his encounter with the older artist Paul Gauguin in Pont-Aven in Brittany, Sérusier aroused the enthusiasm of his fellow students at the private Académie Julian in Paris, including Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis, for Gauguin’s Synthetist principles. Art was to reflect experiences of nature or emotions with greater intensity, in a synthesis of perception and symbolic meaning, and in so doing to progress beyond the mere reproduction of the external world. With this in mind the members of the Nabis, who also included Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton and Aristide Maillol, investigated art as a means of expression. Their starting point was the close link between form and emotion. Based on the Symbolist language of colours and forms, the Nabis banished the linear perspective from their works, avoiding the illusion of depth and freeing themselves from the concept of an illusionistic modelling of the body. Japanese woodcuts represented an important source of inspiration for their two-dimensional style with its linear approach. Echoes of Art Nouveau can be found in the decorative elements and tendency towards abstraction in their pictures, whose subjects frequently revolved around a nudity which was as permissive as it was original. The Nabis gave expression to their holistic approach towards art in a variety of media, which included not only painting and sculpture but also lithography, book illustration, poster design, stage design and the design of textiles and furniture.

Persons belonging to Nabis

Works associated with Nabis