Child in an Apron or Little Girl in a Red Dress

Maurice Denis – the genius of symbolism

The Two Sisters, Maurice Denis
The Two Sisters

Maurice Denis is a French artist of the XIX-XX centuries, a famous art theorist. Maurice Denis’s paintings are a vivid example of symbolism in painting. His inspired work, attempts to comprehend the philosophical background of the drawing, found expression in all the works of the author, from frescoes and illustrations to numerous articles and diary entries.

Maurice Denis is considered one of the main inspirers of the “Nabis” group (French Nabis “prophet”). At the heart of his research was the desire to revive the religious genre, conveying mythological, sacred plots, mysticism of allegories, mood, vague expectations and hopes through colors. His theoretical studies have had a great influence on subsequent generations of artists.

Mother And Child, Maurice Denis
Mother And Child

Biography of Maurice Denis Maurice

Denis was born in the French commune city of Granville on November 25, 1870. His father worked on the railway, his mother provided the services of a dressmaker. The deep religiosity of his parents influenced the future artist. From early childhood he was drawn to the knowledge of the essence of Catholic rituals, admired the play of chiaroscuro from the fire of candles, the smells of church incense.

Maurice Denis’s first hobby was philosophy, for which he entered the prestigious Lycée Condorcet. During another vacation, he was impressed by the Louvre’s collection of paintings and chose the Academy of Arts. Having given preference to painting, he did not abandon his initial occupation, graduated from two educational institutions, becoming a professional artist and a bachelor of philosophy. In the 1890s, Maurice Denis not only painted pictures, but also worked on the theory of symbolism. He joined the Nabis group, formed in 1888 by Paul Serusier and Pierre Bonnard. The same period brought him together with a girl named Martha. They soon got married and lived together for nearly 30 years, raising seven children.

Bretons, Maurice Denis

The middle of the 1890s became very fruitful for the young painter.

He writes paintings, sketches for tapestries, mosaic stained glass windows, travels around Italy, studies interior painting, frescoes by great masters, works by Raffaello Santi and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

One of the famous results of the master’s creative research can be called a series of panels for a concert hall in the mansion of Ivan Abramovich Morozov, in Moscow. They depict the mythological “History of Psyche”. To decorate the walls, Maurice Denis added sketches of the interior, furniture, ceramic vases.

Maurice Denis, Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis

After the First World War, which caused serious damage to religious buildings, Maurice Denis organized the “Studio of Spiritual Art”, in which he received artisans and painters who were ready to serve the revival of religious ideals. At the same time, the master lectured, published a collection of “Theories”, reprinted three times over the next 10 years.

The master remained a successful, sought-after artist and theorist until the moment when on November 13, 1943, he left his Parisian home on the familiar promenade. On a nearby street corner, 77-year-old Maurice Denis was hit and killed by a car.


The most famous paintings by Maurice Denis

Maurice Denis’s paintings are considered a prime example of the symbolic direction of painting. The most famous of his works:

  1. “April” (1892) – refers to a series dedicated to the seasons. A sensual expression of spring freshness, the joy of the awakening of nature.
  2. The Way to Life (1895) is a stained glass window made according to the artist’s sketches. One of the many surviving examples of interior decorations.
  3. “Bacchus and Ariadne” (1907) – the picture was created according to a famous legend. The author moved away from the ancient tradition, depicting the first meeting of the characters as a beach scene.
  4. Farandola (1907) is a picturesque embodiment of a swift collective French dance, in which performers, young maidens, whirl in a chain holding hands.
  5. “History of Psyche. Panel 7. Cupid Carries Psyche to Heaven ”(1908) – one of the 13 images that adorn the walls of the music hall of Morozov’s mansion. Currently, the original interior has been completely restored in the Hermitage.
  6. Paradise (1912) is a symbolic view of heavenly life. Reflects the vision of the author, who sought to give his paintings a religiosity.
The Seasons Series. September
The Seasons Series. September
Child in an Apron or Little Girl in a Red Dress
Child in an Apron or Little Girl in a Red Dress
Easter Morning or Easter Mystery
Easter Morning or Easter Mystery