Maurice Denis (fr. Maurice Denis; November 25, 1870, Granville - November 13, 1943, Paris) - French artist, post-impressionist and symbolist, member of the artistic group "Nabi", one of her main theorists.

Features of the artist Maurice Denis: one of the most famous and recognized artists of his time, Maurice Denis considered painting and walls to be the pinnacle of artistic professionalism. He painted frescoes on the walls of temples and chapels, palaces, theaters and government buildings. For the most part these are multi-figure allegoric and mystical scenes in which the classical tradition is combined with new artistic principles and techniques: flat spots of saturated colors, lack of perspective, simplified forms.
In this painting and graphic work Denis - very personal, piercing. His observations of real objects are transformed into rhythmic compositions, built according to speculative laws. Maurice Denis was constantly looking for a balance between personal impression, accurate study of nature and fictional decorativeness.

Famous paintings by Maurice Denis: "Bacchus and Ariadne", "Muses", "Catholic Sacrament", "Madame Ranson with a cat", "Portrait of Martha Denis, the artist's wife".

By the end of the 19th century, when independent artists arranged exhibitions in Paris and wrote nude prostitutes, purple shadows, horse racing, ballerinas and apples, the fifteen-year-old student of the famous lyceum Maurice Denis would write in his diary: “I have to become a Christian artist who will glorify the wonders of Christianity". It will take 35 years, the exhibition halls will be filled with paintings by cubists, Fauvists, expressionists - and he will open a “Studio of Spiritual Art” in Paris, where he will teach young artists to organize religious compositions according to the laws of music, and use avant-garde art techniques in colors, modern civilization with the church and man with God.

Painting and philosophy
Maurice Denis, the son of a railway servant and a seamstress, from his very childhood was seriously interested in only two things: art and religion. At the age of 13 he began to keep a diary - and continued to make personal notes until the end of his life: about art, about love, about attitudes towards life and towards people. But then, at the very beginning, the teenager Denis admired church ordinances, smells and candlelight. All that is beautiful and impressive in the Catholic ceremony.

When young Maurice is a student of the oldest and most prestigious French Lyceum Condorcet, his main passion will be philosophy. But quickly enough, impressed by the Louvre collection, from communicating with friends Edouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel (this friendship will also be the most important, for the rest of his life), he decides to leave high school and enters the Academy of Fine Arts from the first time. Here it is desperately dull and lifeless - and Denis, despite the exhausting study schedule, also enters the private Academy Julian. Studies at the same time in both. Having already decided on the future occupation and having chosen painting, persistent and purposeful, he will simultaneously pass the exam and still become a bachelor of philosophy.

Prophet in love
In the early years of the 1890s, a student of the Academy, Julian Maurice Denis, had two of the most important, turning meetings: with contemporary art and with his future wife Martha.

The first meeting will provide a classmate and friend Paul Serusier... He went to Pont-Aven and got from Paul Gauguin important lesson: the artist should not be bothered by blind copying, painting is an attempt to convey the inner state of the artist observing the landscape, a naked woman, child or jug. And this condition can only express color, rhythm and form. Séruzier brings a sketch from Pont-Aven, which becomes a talisman for the company of young students of the Academy Julian. They unite into a group, call it Nabi (from the Hebrew “prophet”), dress up in ritual clothes, read ancient sacred texts and daring symbolist poetry, write small pictures with bold flat color spots.

The second meeting took place without assistants and guides - Martha Merier God will send to young Nabid, in whom he so sincerely believes. Maurice Denis is in love and happy, focused and elated. Martha is a brilliant pianist, muse, model, permanent object of admiration and recognition. She takes thoughts, she accelerates the heartbeat to barely portable speed, she inspires on lyrical lithographic albums, multi-figured cloths, populated only by her figure in different manifestations and moods, on mystical rethinking of biblical legends.

Maurice Denis will live with Martha for almost 30 years, they will have 7 children, a huge house and a workshop with a chapel, arranged in the building of the old hospital, a villa on the coast of Brittany, where they will spend every summer. And only one tragedy - a severe long-term illness of Martha, from which she will die in 1919.

Theory and practice
From the very beginning, from the first years of the existence of the Nabi group, Maurice Denis is interested not only in the artistic embodiment of general principles, but also in writing a convincing theory. He writes articles that publishes avant-garde magazine La Revue blanche Tade Nathanson. Twenty-year-old Denis formulates the ideas of new art so provocatively precisely that even decades later the representatives of other modernist movements, who associate their art with pure expressiveness of color and shape, will quote it: “Painting - before becoming a war horse, a naked woman or some kind of history - is essentially a flat surface covered with flowers in a certain order”.

Since the mid-1890s, Denis has been enthusiastically working on decorative projects: he painted panels for private villas and sketches for tapestries, wallpaper, stained glass windows. He visited Italy - and after meeting with the works Raphael and Michelangelo returned to Paris with a new vision, new ideas. He is fascinated by the spatial, stylistic and semantic scale and possibilities of fresco and interior painting. In 1908 he painted by order of a Russian philanthropist and collector Ivana Morozova a series of panels for decorating a concert hall, personally present during installation and indignantly frees the room from bulky furniture. His panel about Psyche completely lost - in the hall, says Denis, there should be only a few statues, vases and low (Morozov’s friends grumbled that they were completely uncomfortable) banquettes.

Denis receives decent fees and gains unprecedented fame. For a fee from Ivan Morozov, for example, he can buy a villa on the coast. At the same time, he will collect an essay book called Theories and which will be reissued 3 times over the next 10 years. He has been teaching painting at the private Academy of Ranson for more than 10 years.

After the First World War, during the devastation, desolation and despair, Maurice Denis climbs up the forests of looted old churches and conceptual new chapels. He opens the “Studio of Spiritual Art”, where he teaches artists and artisans to strengthen the core of European society, shattered by misfortunes, which has lost contact with the ideal and God, through art. He works on frescoes in the Church of the Holy Ghost in Paris, in the church of Saint-Louis in Vincennes. From one listing adorned by Maurice Denis Catholic temples head spin. But in the same years he wrote a small, personal painting, returning the perspective to depth, to figures - volumes, lines - softness. He works in France and abroad on painted walls and ceilings of the most ambitious civil buildings - the palace built for the World Exhibition, Senate Building, Labor Bureau in Geneva.

In 1922, the artist marries again - and will be happy and in demand until the end of his life, which ends suddenly. In 1943, Maurice Denis will hit a truck in a Parisian street.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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