17 May 2021
The Nabis and Misia Natanson,
Muse of the Belle Époque
with Chris Boicos
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Revue blanche, poster, 1895
The Nabis were a small group of very young artists who created a mysterious artistic brotherhood in Paris in 1889 inspired by a single painting, the Talisman by Paul Sérusier, painted in Brittany under the direction of his mentor, Paul Gauguin. In the 1890s Sérusier, Paul Ranson, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Ker Xavier Roussel and later Félix Valotton initiated one of the key new art movements in France. Their experiments with flat shapes, decorative patterns and a variety of artistic techniques connect them to the Art Nouveau styles of the 1890s. They all fell under the charm of a talented Polish piano player, Misia Godebska, who married the French publisher Thadée Natanson.
She was portrayed numberless times by the Nabis but also by Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir. Natanson’s Revue Blanche was the most influential artistic and literary periodical of the period, edited by the great art critic Félix Fénéon. The review was illustrated by the Nabis and published all the modern writers of the day from Proust to Apollinaire as well as defending Captain Dreyfus during the celebrated affair. In our lecture we will see how all these figures and artistic currents come together to define a new vision of femininity and a modern style of art and decoration for the Paris of the "Belle Époque".
Félix Valotton, Misia at her dress ing table, 1898
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