The Nabis

The Norton Simon Museum presents The Nabis,  an exhibition of paintings, prints, sculpture, and furniture created by the Nabis and artists related to their circle. The exhibition features works by the principal figures in the group, Paul Séusier, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Georges Lacombe, and Aristade Maillol. Paintings by Emile Bernard, who exhibited frequently with the Nabis, and by Gauguin, their esteemed forerunner, are also be on display.

The Nabi brotherhood was born in 1889. Nabis means "prophet" in Hebrew and is an Old Testament term for the inspired one. They met weekly to exchange ideas and pictoral experiences, organized ceremonies and adopted Nabi nicknames. Between the end of Impressionism and the beginning of the twentieth century, the Nabis headed the foremost school of painting in France. Their work was an outgrowth of the Symbolism, and the Nabis believed that the responsibility of the arts must rest in the expression of ideas rather than the representation of objects. Within this environment, the Nabis also took inspiration from the theories of Gauguin, known as Synthetism.

If there was a shared artistic canon amongst the Nabis, it was characterized by a penchant for Synthetism, the synthesis of form and color and rich, decorative surfaces. However, there existed no solidarity of artistic aims and neither was there a unity of style. Denis and Sérusier adhered to a spiritualistic symbolism and ofttimes Catholic expression while Bonnard, Vuillard, and Roussal focused on the technical, ornamental challenges posed in interpreting the life around them.