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Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900

Oct 23, 2021 - Jan 23, 2022
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
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Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900 explores the beautiful, enigmatic, and paradoxical work of Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Félix Vallotton, four members of the Nabi Brotherhood. The Nabis were a group of young artists who were inspired by the growing current of symbolism in literature and theater. They sought to create an art of suggestion and emotion. Private Lives takes a close look at their paintings, prints, and drawings of home, family, and children, or what Bonnard referred to as the small pleasures and “modest acts of life.” Throughout their formative years in the 1890s, these four artists were deeply entwined in each other’s lives; Bonnard, Vuillard, and Denis shared a studio, and Swiss-born Vallotton became a close associate of all three and remained a lifelong confidant of Vuillard. Although their styles varied, each returned repeatedly to the motifs of home life, romantic love, and family. Yet the domestic world was not always what it seemed; suppressed secrets, hidden affairs, and familial tension bubble beneath the surface, challenging the viewer to construct the unspoken narrative of these small but powerful images of interiors, gardens, and the city of Paris. Loans from the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Musée d’Orsay, as well as from many additional public and private collections, will feature in this exhibition alongside the rich holdings of Nabi material in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Portland Art Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Mary Weaver Chapin of the Portland Art Museum and Heather Lemonedes Brown of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Private Lives is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Cleveland Museum of Art and Yale University Press. The catalogue features essays by the co-curators and vignettes by leading historians and art historians that offer insight into the private worlds of the Nabis: Francesca Berry of the University of Birmingham interrogates the Nabis and gender roles; Kathleen Kete of Trinity University reveals the importance of pets to private life in nineteenth-century France; Saskia Ooms of the Musée Montmartre describes the role of the camera in the personal world of these artists; and Francesca Brittan of Case Western Reserve University illuminates the centrality of music in constructing the bourgeois family home.

Organized by the Portland Art Museum and Cleveland Museum of Art. Co-curated by Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Portland Art Museum, and Heather Lemonedes Brown, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Page from the Private Lives activity guide, showing a painting of a woman at a piano and a painting of people reading music and playing harps
Viewing guide
A painting of an older woman sitting at a table, smiling at a blonde child
Boy Eating Cherries, 1895. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947). Oil on board; 52 x 41 cm. National Gallery of Ireland, Presented, in memory of May Guinness, 1982, NGI.4356. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Educator images
Painting of two women arranging flowers
Woman in a Striped Dress, 1895. Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940). Oil on canvas; 65.7 x 58.7 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983.1.38. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Fabric and Fashion: Pattern and Design in the Art of Edouard Vuillard
Painting of a woman with red hair and a blue and white checkered dress bending over a golden retriever dog
Women with a Dog, 1891. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947). Oil and ink on canvas; 41 x 32.5 cm. The Clark Art Institute, Acquired by the Clark, 1979, 1979.23. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute. clarkart.edu. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painted Pets: Dogs and Cats in the Work of Pierre Bonnard
Private Lives: The Intimate Interiors of the Nabis
Living Together, Working Together: Édouard Vuillard and His Mother

In the news

Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, 1889–1900 has been praised locally in The Oregonian (a “sumptuous exhibition”) and PSU Vanguard (“Explores the mysteries of everyday life”), as well as nationally in outlets including The New York Times (“A shrewd, surprising exhibition”), The Wall Street Journal (“This welcome show, long overdue, proves the Nabis are fertile, relevant”), Antiques and the Arts Weekly (“The works on view touch meaningfully upon the simultaneously comforting and claustrophobic feelings about home”), and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (“The show…enables viewers to enter the beautiful, fragile, and fleeting world portrayed by the Nabis. The experience is, in a word, superb”).


Presenting Sponsors

  • Laura and Roger Meier Family

Lead Sponsor

  • Exhibition Series Sponsors

Major Sponsor

  • The Robert Lehman Foundation


  • Helen and Amjad Bangash
  • Ann Flowerree / The Flowerree Foundation
  • Graphic Arts Council of the Portland Art Museum
  • Sabine Artaud Wild
  • Mr. and Mrs. William A. Whitsell
  • Anonymous


  • Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler
  • Anne and James F. Crumpacker
  • European and American Art Council
  • Susan and Jim Winkler
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