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Extending Tradition: French Painting, 1890–1940

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture presented on July 10, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores works by a group of like-minded artists who sought to push painting to new levels of abstraction, decoration, and expression. Active in 1890s Paris, they called themselves Les Nabis, Hebrew for “prophets.” Among the leaders of the group were Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Their works are intimate in both scale and subject, capturing scenes from the artists’ daily lives. Bonnard and Henri Matisse, were later drawn to the bright light of southern France. On the French Riviera as well as in the Normandy countryside Bonnard painted vibrant landscapes in molten colors stitched together by dabs and dashes, squiggles and scrolls. Matisse spent most of the 1920s in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where he reveled in clashing arabesques and patterns, often of Moroccan inspiration, raked by strong light. The lecture concludes with a brief overview of the art of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the years after the First World War. This presentation was part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art.