Monday, May 20, 2019

Out & About - Les Nabis et le Décor

Paul Ransom, Canards (Ducks)
Pretty much everyone is familiar with the Impressionists.  But what about what came after them?  What about the Nabis?
     The who?
     The Nabis.  They were opposed to Impressionism because they felt it was too close to reality, an opinion that I find a bit strange.  I mean, the very essence of Impressionism was that it was just an impression, not reality.  That’s what critics criticized about it.  But some artists felt that way, and they chose a word common to Hebrew and Arabic to explain their ambition to be something else, something new.  That word was Nabis, meaning prophets.
     The Nabis (1888-1900) were fascinated by Gauguin and by Japanese prints.  They tended to view their art as having more of a decorative role and wanted to erase the boundary between fine arts and applied arts.  That led them to work extensively in tapestry, wallpaper, stained glass and ceramics.  In their paintings, their style was more flat and colorful, with faces often left blank.
     Some of the names, such as Pierre Bonnard or Edouard Vuillard, may be familiar.  Others may be new:  Paul Sérusier, Paul Ransom, Maurice Denis or Ker-Xavier Roussel.

In the first room, the theme was women in the garden.  The piece I liked the most was by Vuillard, who painted nine panels for the living/dining room of his rich friend Natanson.  At Natanson’s death, the panels were split up and now live in several different museums and collections in several different countries.  My favorite shows mothers with children of various ages in a garden.  One, a boy in the foreground, has his back turned but it seemed to me that he was about to get up to some mischief involving a younger child close by.
     Of a much simpler style was Roussel’s “A Garden”, as seen through a window with four panes.  Again, a boy has his back turned to us, letting our imagination run free.  And a busy woman is half hidden by a tree.  What is she doing?  Is she caning the chairs we see?  And what can we say about those strange leaves falling from the trees above?
     Demonstrating the decorative side of Nabis art is Ransom’s “Canards” (Ducks).  The colors are bright - aqua-ish blue, light green, splashes of orange for flowers and on the duck’s bills and feet.  The vines create motion and the ducks are caught in various poses and activities.  It’s actually a draft for wallpaper, again linking fine and applied arts.
     That link was also evident in three pieces of painted china.  I preferred the simplest:   “Femme et Chien” (Woman with Dog), a Vuillard that uses only black ink strokes on white porcelain with just a touch of pale yellow for her hair, the dog’s spots and what might be the earth below.
     There you are; that’s my selection.

The Luxembourg Museum is rather small, which makes it comfortable.  But it can get congested fairly fast.  So be patient.

Edouard Vuillard, Femme et Chien (Woman with Dog)

Roussel, A Garden
Les Nabis et le Décor

Musée du Luxembourg
19 rue de Vaugirard; 6è
Métro:  Rennes, St. Placide

Until June 30, 2019

Daily 10:30-7 / Mon 10:30-10

13 & 9 €

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