Nabis art brings warmth to The Phillips Collection

Mary Ma, Arts Editor

The Phillips Collection’s most recent exhibition, “Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life,” features over 60 rare works from a group of Parisian Post-Impressionist artists called Les Nabis. 

The term “Nabi” derives from Hebrew and Arabic words meaning “prophet.” The group, formed in 1888, 

Nestled in a cozy corner of Dupont Circle, The Phillips Collection houses some of the most valuable works of art in a modest brownstone, a sharp contrast to the commonly neoclassical or ultramodern grand art museums on the National Mall. “Everyday Life” continues this welcoming, down to earth ambiance with the warm jewel toned walls, soft carpet and dim, moody lighting of the showroom. 

Alluringly approachable, the comfortable setting of the exhibit is reflective of its material; the Nabis aimed to display the comforting aesthetics of daily life. Intricate paintings of musicians and relatives line the walls, reminiscing memories of Vuillard, Bonnard and their contemporaries. 

However, paintings are not the only medium of work featured. Other mediums such as sculpture, prints and screens share the spotlight. From oil paintings to prints to sculptures, The Phillips Collection avoids the boredom that comes with uniformity. The flat, yet lively colors, the influence of Japanese prints and the nostalgic tone unify the different pieces, telling a cohesive story that flows from room to room. 

The Nabis questioned the divide between decorative and high art with their groundbreaking casual pieces. Paying homage to this intention, the Collection seamlessly incorporates its rare art with more casual, perhaps mundane elements. Visitors will find books about the exhibit, printed wallpaper and plush leather seats to simply sit, relax and immerse themselves in the aesthetic ideals of the Nabis artists. 

The Collection centers their approach to the presentation of artwork on visitor experience. The exhibit enables  any viewer to reach what is often seen as untouchable: the snobbish world of high art. 

“Everyday Life” runs until Jan. 26, and is free for visitors under the age of 18.