Nabis reconstructions on show in Amsterdam

The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam has strong connections with Russia and this year, this international link has been topped up with French art in the Nabis exhibition. The combination could not have been more natural and sublime.

The Nabis were a small but very important group of French artists who are credited with paving the way for the Cubists and made modern art in general take off in earnest. In their heyday, they were very popular in Russia, where collectors were soon after their works, especially Ivan Morozov, one of the richest Russian art collectors at the time.

Morozov commissioned Maurice Denis in 1908 to decorate the music salon in his house and this unique work has been reconstructed by the Hermitage Amsterdam museum. Seven exclusive paintings by Denis were reconstructed, as well as six panels, so when you visit this show you will see some rather unique stuff.

The Nabis, who all studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, took the impenetrable Paul Gauguin as their great inspiration. The group was made up of Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Édouard Vuillard and Félix Edouard Valoton – all French artists except for Valoton who was Swiss. They followed up from the impressionists and distinguished themselves from them by emphasising the emotions, colour and composition.

The impressionists were mostly busy trying to capture moments and getting the light right, but the Nabis were less concerned with this. They embraced decorative painting without a sense of shame. Their paintings could be termed ‘flat’ as they initially do not make use of traditional perspectives. The artists also refrained from mixing their paints and had a passion for expressive use of forms.

The works on display in the Hermitage currently include The history of Amor and Psyche. Méditerrannée, an interior decorating work by Pierre Bonnard, also commissioned by Ivan Morozov, is also on display. To get a precise idea of how to place these Nabis, the Hermitage has put their works in context; a good few French paintings and drawings before and after the Nabis are on display, including works by Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol and Paul Albert Bartholomé.

Unmissable! The museum is located along the river Amstel toward the centre of town, where Amsterdam Apartments has a fair few rentals, so you will probably be able to walk there.