The Nabis were a group of young artists who banded together around 1890, galvanized by the quest to achieve a ‘beauty beyond visible reality.’
The group included Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Paul Elie Ranson, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Paul Sérusier, Félix Vallotton and Édouard Vuillard.
The Symbolist artist Paul Gauguin was their great example.
Under Gauguin's supervision, Sérusier painted a small, abstract landscape in 1889 that served the Nabis as a ‘talisman,’ pointing them in the direction of a new, more intensely experienced art.
The Nabis also experimented freely with the artistic possibilities offered by colour lithography.
Their prints, like their paintings and drawings, expressed their intimate, personal experiences and feelings through a naive, decorative visual language, with bright expanses of colour, graceful lines and strong contours.
The print series they made around 1900 for the dealer Ambroise Vollard are some of the greatest works in the history of art.
Another ambition of the Nabis was to integrate art more completely into daily life.
As a medium, printmaking was perfectly suited to this task. They designed countless posters, theatre programmes, artists’ books, and sheet music that enhanced the aesthetic experience of the everyday.
All the same, their subtle and often complex art remained largely restricted to their own circle of writers, dramatists, and collectors.
Only Ibels and Vallotton succeeded in reaching a wider audience with their illustrations for sheet music and magazines.
George L. Mauner, The Nabis. Their History and their Art 1888-1896, New York 1978
Patricia Eckert Boyer (ed.), The Nabis and the Parisian Avant-Garde, New Brunswick 1988
François Fossier, La nébuleuse Nabie: Les Nabis et l'art graphique, Paris 1993