You have a few incredible composers and you put them together and it’s like a menu - Bach, Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev….. I like to have a lot of different combinations, a taste of everything.
Paul Gauguin, Sacred Spring: Sweet Dreams (Nave Nave Moe), 1894 © State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Text: Dave Thomas. Photos: © State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Art fusion in the post-impressionistic age Gauguin, Bonnard, Denis at the Hermitage Perhaps the title should have been Denis, Bonnard and Gauguin Although a crowd puller, Gauguin plays a minor role in this exhibition
is work, especially his use of colour was, however, a major source of inspiration for Denis, Bonnard and the other artists of the Les Nabis movement. It started in 1890, the year in which Van Gogh shot himself. Paris was emerging as a modern cosmopolitan city with metro trains rumbling underground and the first electric streetlamps flickering on the streets. Les Nabis is derived from the Arabic/Hebrew word nabi, which means prophet. To be honest I struggled to see anything prophetic
in what I initially experienced as a disparate collection of paintings: large commissioned decorative works, more impressionistic paintings with a hint of realism and some clearly more mystical and symbolic compositions. My mind flashed back to an interview I’d read a few hours before in the Financial Times: “You have a few incredible composers and you put them together and it’s like a menu - Bach, Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev….. I like to have a lot of different combinations, a taste of everything.” (Food of love an
interview with Lang Lang, Financial Times, 5 October 2013). The collection displayed at The Hermitage was indeed a carefully selected menu procured by wealthy Russians who frequented the salons of Paris as Les Nabis flourished but was shunned by the Parisian art establishment. Les Nabis in all its manifestations was about capturing moods and feelings - trying to convey the invisible with a mixture of impressionism, realism, symbolism, decorative art and simplified forms. Flowers that have a soul in Fantin Latour’s still lifes, Auburtin’s