Nabis was a small group of French artists, who were active during the last decade of the 19th century. They were inspired by Paul Gauguin's method of painting in bold colours. Their view was explained by member Maurice Denis:
"Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude, an anecdote or whatnot, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order."
Other Nabis members included Paul Sérusier (besides Denis the main theorist of the group), painter Pierre Bonnard (also founder of a movement called Intimism), sculptor Aristide Maillol, Swiss/French painter Félix Vallotton and painter Édouard Vuillard. Their paintings were characterized by layers of plain paint or patterns that cover large areas. Opposing impressionism, they exhibitioned in Paris from 1892 to 1899. Not only did the Nabis paint, but they also made posters, book illustrations and they designed fabrics and theatre plays. Their emphasis on design was shared by the parallel art nouveau movement. Both groups also had close ties to the Symbolists, of whom Denis was a member himself for instance.
Pierre Bonnard is a good example to illustrate the Nabis way of producing art. Bonnard was a master in capturing the decorative nature of the scenes around him. The subject was never more important than the lines, patterns, colours, shapes, perspective and composition that defined it. The pattern of a women's dotted dress, the strong abstract shape of an entirely red dress or the tiles on a bathroom wall for instance became the strongest elements in several of his paintings. He reduced his subjects to only two dimensions, bending reality to fit his decorative demands. He once stated:
"Painting must above all be decorative."
Their name is derived from the Hebrew word for prophet.