European Art: 19th Century

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Still Life with Apples and Violets, 1890-1891

Paul Sérusier

French, 1864-1927
Oil on canvas
15 x 18-1/8 in. (38.1 x 46 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon

On view

In 1888, Sérusier—a major theorist as well as an avant-garde painter—organized the artists’ collective known as the Nabis (from the Hebrew word meaning prophet). With his fellow Nabis Denis, Bonnard, and Vuillard, Sérusier pushed painting toward flatness and abstraction, as this still life demonstrates. Acid color applied in curt, parallel strokes creates a patchwork image of three apples, a vase of violets, and a book on a table; a sculpted torso hovers in the background, partly concealed by a tumble of drapery. The painting’s surface encourages us to look not through it, to the objects depicted, but rather at it and its flickering play of colors.

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