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Maurice Denis

Nabi, symbolist

(Granville, 1879 - Paris, 1943)

After studying at the Condorcet High School in Paris, where he met Edouard Vuillard 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. He was 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. The same year, he met Paul Sérusier who offered him his painting, Le Talisman (Paris, Musée d'Orsay), painted under the guidance of Paul Gauguin. Denis discovered the painting of Paul Gauguin, whose influence would become important 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 founded the group of Nabis. Nicknamed the "Nabi with beautiful icons", Denis was also the theoretician of the group.

First synthetic and symbolic, a period close to Art Nouveau, his painting then moved towards a renewed classicism. Intimate scenes and family, religious themes, as well as landscapes of Italy and Brittany are very present in his work. In addition to easel paintings, Denis produced both in France and abroad great secular scenery (Ivan Morosov's musical salon in Moscow, dome of the Champs-Elysees theater in Paris ...) as well as religious paintings (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 with the aim of renewing of Christian art. A tireless researcher and worker, he left behind a considerable body of work.

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