Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900
Oct 23, 2021 – Jan 23, 2022
Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, 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.
Fabric and fashion: Pattern and Design in the Art of Édouard Vuillard
Painted Pets: Dogs and Cats in the Work of Pierre Bonnard
The exhibition Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, 1889-1900 focuses on an important slice of French life and art at the end of the nineteenth century. In the autumn of 1889, a group of avant-garde artists formed a brotherhood to promote a radical new direction in art. Adopting the name Nabis—Hebrew for ‘prophets’—they sought to capture subjective experience and emotion in their paintings, drawings, and prints. They drew their inspiration from things close at hand—daily meals, family members and pets at rest or play, hushed interiors, and private gardens.
In this Educator Program, exhibition curator Mary Weaver Chapin joins us to introduce the four artists featured in this exhibition. She will explore their varied and sophisticated use of private domestic life as the locus for artistic inspiration. After more than a year of living and working at home, students and teachers alike will respond to these compelling paintings that telegraph both the creature comforts of home life as well as the claustrophobia and tension that often bubble just beneath the surface.
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In the autumn of 1889, a group of avant-garde artists formed a brotherhood to promote a radical new direction in art. Adopting the name Nabis—Hebrew for ‘prophets’—they sought to capture subjective experience and emotion in their paintings, drawings, and prints. They drew their inspiration from things close at hand—daily meals, family members and pets at rest or play, hushed interiors, and private gardens. In this lecture, exhibition curator Mary Weaver Chapin introduces the four artists featured in this exhibition and delves into their varied and sophisticated use of private domestic life as the locus for artistic inspiration. 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.
Mary Weaver Chapin joined the Portland Art Museum in 2012. She oversees a large and varied collection of more than 20,000 prints, posters, and artists’ books that date from the fifteenth century to the present. She is responsible for the care, collection, research, and exhibition of prints, and oversees the Haber Study Center in the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts. She is the founder of the Portland Fine Print Fair, and serves as the president of the national professional organization Print Council of America.
Chapin has curated numerous exhibitions at the Museum including the loan shows Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900 in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art (2021), an exhibition and catalogue that explores the work of Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Félix Vallotton; Paris 1900: City of Entertainment with Paris Musées, Museums of the City of Paris (2019); and David Hockney: A Rake’s Progress, presented in partnership with the Hockney Foundation and the Portland Opera (2015), among others.
Chapin is a graduate of Wellesley College and earned her doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She writes and lectures widely on the graphic arts from the eighteenth-century to the present, and is the author of the catalogue raisonné of the graphic work of contemporary artist Warrington Colescott.
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Vuillard’s mother, Madame Marie Vuillard, was a constant in her son’s life and in his art. More than five hundred paintings in which she is depicted, made over a period of four decades, are testament to this. Vuillard and his mother shared a series of modest rented apartments, a Parisian co-habitation lasting until her death in 1928. In these rooms Vuillard and Madame Vuillard operated mutually supportive, parallel working practices: Vuillard put his mother and her small sewing business ‘in the picture’, while she posed for his pencil and camera or printed his photographs. In this lecture, Dr. Francesca Berry will foreground the substance of Madame Vuillard’s role in the practical undertaking of her son’s art, whether that was as model, technician, advisor, financier or servant. Berry will argue that, together, Vuillard and his mother brought a petit-bourgeois woman’s experience of domesticity into visibility as a complex, alternative motif to the domesticated femininity otherwise favoured by the Nabis.
Dr Francesca Berry is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies at the University of Birmingham. Before joining Birmingham in 2005, Francesca studied for her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at University College London. She proceeded to a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum. Francesca is currently chair of the editorial group of the Oxford Art Journal and has served on its board since 2010. Francesca specialises in interior and domestic space in French modernist art, visual culture and design, particularly from a feminist perspective, and has published many articles in this field. She was curator of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts’ 2018-19 ‘Maman: Vuillard and Madame Vuillard’ exhibition and co-author of its catalogue. Francesca is currently writing a book, contracted to Bloomsbury Academic, entitled Édouard Vuillard and the Nabis: Art and the Politics of Domesticity.
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In fin-de-siècle Paris, the Nabis turned to the medium of color lithography to explore new modes of expression. This practice, however, was technically complex and thus required the involvement and expertise of master printer Auguste Clot. This lecture examines Clot’s collaboration with the Nabis and the printer’s significant role in the production of their avant-garde prints.
Natalia Lauricella is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the history of print, modern art, process, and labor, particularly in nineteenth-century Europe. She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Southern California. Her current project traces the network of dealer-publishers, printers, and artists who produced and marketed limited edition original color lithographs as part of the development of modern art and the art market in 1890s France. Focusing on the technical and creative role of master printers, this work recasts the history of modern art through the lens of artisanal labor, artistic process, and collaboration. Research for this project has been supported by a Fulbright grant to France, the Borchard Foundation, the Visual Studies Research Institute at USC, and USC’s Department of Art History. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Natalia worked as a curatorial assistant of collections and exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and contributed to a number of exhibitions including Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe (2014), Agnes Martin (2016), and Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897 (2017).
- Laura and Roger Meier Family
- Exhibition Series Sponsors
- 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. Whitsel
- Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler
- Anne and James F. Crumpacker
- European and American Art Council
- Susan and Jim Winkler