The Crown of Daisies, c. 1905-1906
Oil on canvas
73 x 54,5 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
As the chief theorist of the Nabis, and later on as a distinguished art critic and theorist in his own right, what were Denis` views on painting ?
Some of the following quotations may give some idea but you would have to look at his substantial literary output to gain a full view of his opinions and attitudes. In any event his views and attitudes developed over time. So did his painting style.
"Se rappeler qu'un tableau - avant d'être un cheval de bataille, une femme nue, ou une quelconque anecdote – est essentiellement une surface plane recouverte de couleurs en un certain ordre assemblées.
Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude, or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order."
- Maurice Denis: 'Definition du neo-traditionism', Art et Critique, August 23, 1890
In Nouvelles Théories, Maurice Denis wrote:
"Symbolism ... is the art of translating and inducing states of soul by means of relations of colours and forms. These relations, invented or borrowed from Nature, become signs or symbols of these states of soul: they have the power to suggest them. . . . The Symbol claims to give rise straightway in the soul of the spectator to the whole gamut of human emotions by means of the gamut of colours and forms, or let us say, of sensations, which corresponds to them. . . ."
He then quotes with approval from Bergson:
"The object of art is to put to sleep the active, or rather, resistant powers of our personality, and thus to lead us to a state of perfect docility in which we realize the idea suggested to us and sympathise with the feeling expressed".
Maurice Denis adds:
"All our confused memories having been thus revivified, all our subconscious energies having been thus set in motion, the work of art worthy of the name creates in us a mystical state, or at least a state analoguous to the mystical vision, and, in certain degree, makes God sensible to the heart."