Second Sunday of Advent

Maurice Denis, Nativité (1894), © Musée des Augustins

Close to the French artistic movement called “the Nabis”, inspired by Paul Gauguin, and later a theoretician of Symbolism, Maurice Denis (1870-1943) devoted himself to religious art. He founded the “Ateliers d’Art Sacré” with George Devallières – a school promoting a new sacred Art – and decorated the interiors of several churches while working towards renewing the practice of decorative painting in France. He was against academism and more interested in a spontaneous and symbolic art.

Art is no longer a visual sensation that we gather, like a photograph, as it were, of nature. No, it is a creation of our spirit, for which nature is only the occasion.”

Maurice Denis’s paintings use colourful symbolism to “celebrate all the miracles of Christianity”, in scenes that often refer to everyday life. Hidden self-portraits can often be found (in this painting, he is the man leaning out of the window) and also portraits of his mentors and friends (here, Joseph may be inspired by painter Odilon Redon).

“Je veux de « la musique avant toute chose », et de la poésie. Enfin, je prêcherai la Beauté. La Beauté est un attribut de la Divinité.

Maurice Denis on his ambitions for religious art

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