A burst of creative energy followed the Impressionists. By the late 1890s, Paris was home to innumerable artists and countless exhibitions. Modernist painting started to branch in distinctive styles. The artistic movement with which we associate Hermann-Paul was the Nabis whose name was derived from the Hebrew word for “prophet.” It was coined by the poet Henri Cazalis who paralleled their effort to rejuvenate painting with ancient prophets who rejuvenated Israel. The term fit. Most wore beards and many were actually Jewish.
The Nabis were founded by friends with similar interests in art and literature. Most had met during the 1880s as students of Rodolphe Julian in Paris where they bonded in cafes along the Left Bank. Often they shared ideas in the apartment of Paul Ransom. Pierre Bonnard was there. So were Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis. Their influence on one another was unmistakeable. Their influence on others was pronounced. The Nabis prepared a foundation for abstract and non-representational art.8
During the late 1890s, the Nabis began to participate in public exhibitions. Often their work was showed collectively. In any group of talented individuals, egos find ways to clash. Cliques form and members splinter. By 1896, unity of the group had begun to splinter. In 1900, Maurice Denis paintedHommage à Cézanne in tribute to a time that was already gone. Hermann-Paul would remain close to members of the Nabis whose name was not revealed publically until the movement had already passed.
As the Nabis separated, Hermann-Paul continued to associate with Vuillard, Maurice Lobre, Hughes de Beaumont and Ernest Laurent. They worked in the Intimiste style, a term coined – derisively, it seems – by Vuillard who used it to describe his own style.9 The Intimists essentially moved Impressionism indoors where they depicted the comforts of an increasingly affluent bourgeois society. In 1905, they held their first collective exhibition in Henry Grave’s gallery. It included several works by Hermann-Paul.10
1. Phillip Dennis Cate, “The 1890s: The Revolution,” The Color Revolution, 1978.
2. Alexander Sturgis, Rupert Christiansen, Lois Oliver, Michael Wilson, “Rebels and Martyrs”, 2006
3. Sturgis: Rebels and Martyrs
4. Sturgis: Rebels and Martyrs
5. Alistair Horne, “Seven Ages of Paris” 2002, pp. 290
6. Wikipedia (various contributors including this author) René Georges Hermann-Paul
7. Wikipedia (various contributors) The Dreyfus Affair
8. Wikipedia (various contributors) Les Nabis
9. Laurie Shannon, Jewett’s Intimist Art, American Literature, Vol. 71, No. 2, (June 1999), pp 22
10. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 7, No. 25. (Apr., 1905)