Developments in the 19th Century


Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map





(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)


Maurice Denis

(1870- 1943)


b Granville, 25 Nov 1870; d Paris, 13 Nov 1943.

French painter, designer, printmaker and theorist. Although born in Normandy, Denis lived throughout his life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris. He attended the Lycée Condorcet, Paris, where he met many of his future artistic contemporaries, then studied art simultaneously at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian (1888–90). Through fellow student Paul Sérusier, in 1888 he learnt of the innovative stylistic discoveries made that summer in Pont-Aven by Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. With Sérusier and a number of like-minded contemporaries at the Académie Julian—Pierre Bonnard, Paul Ranson, Henri-Gabriel Ibels and others—Denis found himself fundamentally opposed to the naturalism recommended by his academic teachers. They formed the NABIS, a secret artistic brotherhood dedicated to a form of pictorial Symbolism based loosely on the synthetic innovations of Gauguin and Bernard. Denis’s first article, ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in Art et critique in 1890 (and republished in Théories), served almost as a group manifesto and gave a theoretical justification for the practical and technical innovations of the Pont-Aven school. With its opening statement, ‘It is well to remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order’ (frequently quoted out of context), Denis contributed to the development of a formalist, modernist aesthetic in the 20th century. The bold experiments in flat paint application and anti-naturalistic colour that characterized his early Nabi work seemed to prefigure later abstract initiatives. Both as an artist and as a theorist, however, Denis retreated from the radical position he had adopted as a student in 1890. He had never denied the importance of subject-matter, and in his later painting he devoted himself to the revival of religious imagery.

 September Evening
The Ecounter
Beauty in the Autumn Wood
Triple Portrait of Marthe
Wedding Procession





Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy