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.
His 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 street lamps 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).