Oil on canvas
Unframed: 75 x 80 cm (29 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.)
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Nancy F. and Joseph P. Keithley Collection Gift 2020.110
Denis was an extremely prolific artist who experimented with other art forms. His decorative murals can be viewed in many French churches as well as on the ceiling of the Champs Élysées Theatre in Paris.
Maurice Denis was a member of the Nabis, a small circle of artists formed in Paris in 1888 and associated with the Symbolist movement. Taking their name from the Hebrew and Arabic terms for “prophet,” the Nabis abandoned the Impressionist goal of depicting the fleeting effects of nature, and instead sought to convey a deeper level of meaning through harmonious arrangements of decorative line and color. Denis’s painting depicts a crowd of figures standing on a riverbank, their forms simplified and rendered with pure colors, as they watch the blessing of a yacht on the Belon River near Pont-Aven in Brittany. The subject reflects the artist’s fascination with the humble, spiritual life of this rural community, culturally disparate from the tumultuous strife of modern urban life.
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