The word 'nabi', Hebrew for 'prophet', illustrates the self-consciously spiritual identity that the group adopted. The term ‘Les Nabis’ was coined by the poet Henri Cazalis who drew a parallel between the way the group of painters aimed to revitalize painting (as prophets of Modern art) and the way the ancient prophets had rejuvenated Israel. Considering themselves a creative brotherhood, Les Nabis combined this with other influences - including Japanese printmaking - to create unusual, varied and otherworldly compositions, infused with mystical or mysterious sub-texts. 'Japonisme', the word used to describe the impact of Japanese printmaking on Western artists, was coined just a few years after the country took a pavilion at the Paris World's Fair of 1867.
The Nabis movement was characterised by its strong interest in painting en plein air combined with the stylistic tendencies for broad, quick-patterned brushstrokes of yellow and green, which in the present work, creates the vegetation and light in the foreground. John Rewald said of Bonnard ‘no other painter of his generation was to endow his technique with so much sensual delight, so much feeling for the indefinable texture of paint, so much vibration’ (John Renwald, Pierre Bonnard, New York, 1965, n.p.).
Le Toit rouge was probably painted close to Côte Saint-André in the province of Dauphine, where the Bonnard family had its family estate Le Grand-Lemps. A region that afforded beautiful landscapes and unique light, it had long been a favourite spot for artists painting throughout the nineteenth century.
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