More Nabis !

Dear Liza,

There were four members of the group of artists who called themselves the Nabis. Pierre Bonnard was my favorite, but the other fellows did good work, as well.

Edouard Vuillard did lusciously cozy scenes of family interiors, like his “The Striped Blouse”, showing a woman arranging flowers.

Maurice Denis did very softy colored scenes. So softly colored, in fact, that it is sometimes hard to make out the details. It is important to realize that these pictures are over a hundred years old, and many are just pencil on paper. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

Here is a painting by Denis that I really like, called “Washing the Baby”. The woman looks calmer than I ever felt while wrestling a slippery infant!

Felix Vallotton did paintings and prints of home interiors, but had a very different style from his fellow Nabis. Instead of showing private joys and comforts, his stark black and white prints often make us suspect that all was not right in the household.

This scene of an intimate conversation, for example, is entitled “Money”. Who was asking? Who was denying? Not all roses and champagne, for sure.

But Monsieur Vallotton wasn’t all dark suspicion. His series of prints showing family members playing music has style and fun, and shows what you can do with just black, white, and talent.

So, those are the Nabis, which means ”Prophets” in Hebrew. I really enjoyed the show and will probably go back soon, to have another look at everything.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Meeting the Nabis

Dear Liza,

We got to meet some new friends at the Portland Art Museum. The wonderful new show, called “Private Lives”, features the Nabis, a group of young French artists who worked from about 1880 until 1900. They were a generation or so after the Impressionists like Monet and Renoir, and their style had evolved.

The Impressionists tended to work outdoors, catching the effects of light and wind on their subjects. Monet’s breezy portrait of his wife with an umbrella is a perfect example.

The Nabis show mostly family members in their works, but the art was produced from memory, not life, and most of the scenes depicted are indoors. The feelings they evoke are more cozy than breezy.

Pierre Bonnard is my favorite Nabi. His use of pattern and color of clothes and wallpaper and his subject choices of women, children, dogs and cats is just charming. “The Checkered Blouse”, showing a woman and her cat, is my favorite. His works show intimate, personal scenes that invite you into his family circle.

Another delightful set of works by Bonnard were drawings for a children’s music book that he worked on with his brother-in-law, musician Claude Terrasse. These show music as a loving part of the home, with generations learning and playing together.

Bonnard even used the family to show music theory, as on this page where an octave is shown as taller and taller family members, until the top note is a small child held over the mother’s head.

I will show you some more about the Nabi tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy