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Maurice Denis

Nabi, symbolist

(Granville, 1879 - Paris, 1943)

After studying at Condorcet High School in Paris where he met Edouard Vuillard, Paul Sérusier and Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis trained by attending the Louvre Museum where the works of Fra Angelico determined his vocation as a Christian painter, then marked by the discovery of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. He studied simultaneously at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian in 1888, but he quickly left the first, judging it to be too academic. He met the same year Paul Sérusier who offers him his painting, Le Talisman (Paris, Musée d'Orsay), painted under the guidance of Paul Gauguin. Denis discovers the painting of Paul Gauguin, whose influence will be decisive for the continuation of his work, at the Universal Exhibition of 1889. He also acquired one of his paintings in 1903, L'Autoportrait au Christ jaune (Paris, musée d'Orsay).

In search of new aesthetic solutions, Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier found the group of Nabis. Nicknamed the "Nabi with beautiful icons", he is also the theoretician of the group.

First synthetic and symbolic, a period close to Art Nouveau, his painting then moves towards a renewed classicism. Intimate scenes and family, religious themes, landscapes of Italy and Brittany that are very present in his work. In addition to easel paintings, Maurice Denis produces in France and abroad great secular scenery (Ivan Morosov's musical salon in Moscow, dome of the Champs-Elysees theater in Paris ...) and religious (Sainte-Marguerite churches of Vésinet, Saint-Paul of Geneva, Saint-Louis of Vincennes ...). In 1919, with George Desvallières, he founded the Ateliers d’Art sacré, in a perspective of renewal of Christian art. A tireless researcher and worker, he left behind a considerable body of work.

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