Maurice Denis at the intersection of styles bridging the gap between impressionism and the beginning of 20th century movements

Maurice Denis at the intersection of styles bridging the gap between impressionism and the beginning of 20th century movements

Finding the spiritual in art, and interpreting the flat surface into what it is – two dimensional

Denis Maurice was greatly influenced by the religious, philosophical and artistic and his whole life was an interpreting at the intersection of those ideals. Art for him was not about material or even aesthetic but rather, it was the testament to the spiritual that governs this world.

“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.”


The flatness of the surface was possibly one of the most important ideas or recognition that launched the future generation of painters into the crazy compendium of 20th century art. Maurice made a famous statement

“A painting is a colored surface, in which the various tones and various degrees of light are placed with a certain choice; that is its intimate being.”

Intersection of arts that create new grounds, exploring the difference between sacred and profane love

1895 he wrote in his journal: “Art remains a sure refuge, the hope of a reason in life from now on, and the consoling thought that little beauty manifests itself in our lives, and that we are continuing the work of Creation….Therefore the work of art has merit, inscribed in the marvelous beauty of flowers, of light, in the proportion of trees and shape of waves, and the perfection of faces; to inscribe our poor and lamentable life of suffering, of hope and of thought.”

Denis Maurice

Today we live in an era of cross disciplinary innovations, but 100 years ago Denis seemed to recognize the importance and the connecting nature of music, lithography, painting and writing. The disciplines were not imitating or complementing each other, but rather creating the communication between different artists and their unique views through different mediums but over the same topics. He also distinguished between sacred and profane love portrayed in his works at the end of the 19th century.

Denis Maurice was born in France and his involvement with Nabis and Symbolist movements was significant.

Maurice’s opus was phenomenally large, not only in the diversity of styles from Japanism, Symbolism to Art Nouveau and Neo-Classical, but also mediums that he used such as in architectural decoration, book covers design, theoretical writing,…etc

His vision for art both in painting and writing was in pursuit for spiritual expression of the artist’s soul, he believed that the form and excessive/expressive colors (such as Gauguin for instance who by the way greatly influenced Denis) but he believed that more subtle both form and use of color has a greater chance of portraying the various shades of the artist’s inner world.


Maurice along Paul Sérusier, Felix Vallotton, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard,… created a secret society called Nabis from the word “Nabi”—Hebrew for “Prophet”, as a vehicle to brew their ideas and in helping them identify the core in art and possibly their gathering and discussions sparked and influenced certain branches of the 20 century art. Together they explored the deepest ideals of Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Post- Impressionism, Symbolism in particular was important for Denis Maurice as he was deeply influenced by his life long interest in Christianity and explored many aspects of sacred art and how it transcends to real life. At some stage in life mythology also entered his opus which he beautifully depicted into the every day gatherings near the water.

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