This October, The Phillips Collection
opened Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday LifeThe Nabi Collection of Vicki and Roger Sant. This presentation, planned in conjunction with a major promised gift of art from Vicki and Roger Sant, features over 40 rarely-seen paintings and works on paper as well as two major print portfolios from one of the finest private collections of Nabi art in the United States. The Phillips announces this monumental gift on the occasion of the museums upcoming centennial in 2021. In addition to the promised gift of the Sant Nabi Collection, Vicki and Roger Sant have also designated a major bequest to create an endowment in support of the preservation, care, and study of the Sant Collection.
This gift from Vicki and Roger Sant is nothing short of transformative, says Dr. Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection. Through the bequest, the Sants contribute mightily to the growth of our holdings and strengthen our role as a leading center for the research and presentation of late-nineteenth-century European art. We remain grateful to Vicki for her unwavering service and commitment to the Phillips as Trustee, President, Chair, and then Honorary Chair for over 30 years, and dedicate this exhibition to her in loving memory.
Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life sheds new light on the decade of the 1890s that gave rise to the vanguard inventions of a leading group of European artists who became known as the Nabis (Hebrew word for prophet). On view October 26, 2019January 26, 2020, this exhibition showcases paintings, prints, and works of decorative art by eight visionary artists, all from the holdings of Vicki and Roger Sant, dedicated collectors with a keen eye for exquisite examples of the Nabi aesthetic. By juxtaposing works by Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Ker-Xavier Roussel, among others, across a range of media, including stained glass, ceramics, needlepoint, printmaking, and painting, the exhibition reveals the various ways in which the Nabis translated their artistic methods across the fine and decorative arts.
Inspired by Paul Gauguin in the last decade of the 19th century, the Nabi painters rejected naturalism and embraced the abstract power of color as a vehicle for personal expression. Stylistically diverse, its members included Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard as well as Maurice Denis, Félix Vallotton, Aristide Maillol, Ker-Xavier Roussel, and Paul Ranson. They experimented with painting, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, theatrical sets and costumes, and more, blurring the lines between the fine and decorative arts. The Nabis were also prolific printmakers, and their lithographs, poster designs, book illustrations, theater programs, and contributions to the literary journals, or little reviews, that proliferated in Paris at the fin de siècle, were a major part of their practice.
Embracing a new, liberating approach to art that valued the poetry of suggestion, the Nabi coalesced around a shared belief in arts intimate ties to everyday life. These visionary artists who considered themselves prophets forged a new path in modern art that broke down the artificial barriers between the fine and applied arts, says Elsa Smithgall, Senior Curator at the Phillips.
This exceptional body of work represents a fitting complement to important French works by members of the Nabi and the Post-Impressionists acquired by museum founder Duncan Phillips. Phillips was a leading champion of Pierre Bonnard in the United States, assembling the largest collection of the artists work in an American museum. Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life marks the first show in the United States devoted to the Nabis in over 25 years, thereby enriching the study and understanding of their significant contribution to the history of modern art.