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Maurice Denis

(French, 1870-1943)

Maurice Denis was a French painter, best known for his involvement with the Nabis group. He painted landscapes, portraits and mythic or religious scenes with rich colours and contrasting warm and cool tones. He once wrote, "Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude, an anecdote of some sort, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order."

Born in 1870 in Granville, France, Denis studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and later the Académie Julian, where he met Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and Paul Sérusier. During this time he became interested in the Symbolist works of Paul Gauguin and joined the Symbolist movement and its later offshoot, the group of painters collectively called the Nabis. He visited the artists' colony in Pont-Aven where, under the instruction of Paul Gauguin, his paintings took on the mystical quality that embodies his mature work. In the late 1900s Denis's interest in the paintings of the Itailian Renaissance featured prominently in his work, as demonstrated by the use of perpectival space and modelled forms.

Denis died in Paris in 1942 and today his work can be found in notable collections, such as the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Maurice Denis