Henri-Gabriel Ibels

Life Dates:
1867 – 1936
Artist Biography:
Henri-Gabriel Ibels was a print-maker, illustrator and painter. He was one of the original members of the "Nabis" art movement of the 1890s, a movement led by Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde artists who strongly influenced the subsequent fine and graphic art styles in France. He is known for his bold, expressive works that are typically portraits of the influential artists of the time, and was very much inspired by contemporary Parisian life and the city of Paris. Henri-Gabrielle Ibels , born in Paris in 1867, was a Frech printmaker, painter, and illustrator. In 1888 he attended the Académie Julian, and joined the Nabis , a little known group of artists during the Post-Impressionist movement who strayed away from the principles of Impressionism. His first exhibit was at the Salon des Indépendants and he also participated in group shows with other members of the Nabis movement at Louis Le Barc de Boutteville's gallery. His work may appear similar to that of Adolphe Willette, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. A characteristic element of Ibels' work is a strong, rigorous outline which restrains, emphasizes and serves to flatten form. He paid little attention to interior modeling. In many of Ibels' lithographs rich textural areas are built up by repetitive strokes of the crayon, displaying his skill as a draftsman. His style was bold and expressively graphic. The term Nabis, meaning prophet, was coined by the poet Henri Cazalis, who said there was a parallel between the way these artists revitalized painting and the way ancient prophets had rejuvenated Israel.The Nabis movement is generally considered to have stemmed off from Post-Impressionism. Nabis art appears to have been influenced by the fashionable, contemporary symbolist doctrine. Much of their work has a painterly, non-realistic look.The members of the Nabis used a variety of media including oils, distemper, posters, prints, book illustration, textiles, and furniture. A few members of the group included Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Paul Ranson, and Paul Séruisier. As many French artists who had once been inspired by an Impressionist view of the world left impressionism behind and pursued their own paths, an immense stylistic diversity developed and reached its peak during the late 1880s. When Impressionism began to draw to a close the Nabis remained distant from Cubism and Fauvism. They sought to abolish the line between design and fine art. However, conflict emerged within the group as each member developed his own artistic personality, resulting in a weak sense of group unity. This made the Nabis unique in relation to other groups. The group formed in 1888 at the Académie Julian. They were heavily influenced by Gauguin's work. Gauguin used color in new and unexpected combinations. He broke away from the Impressionists' studies of minutely contrasted hues. After encountering Gauguin, Séruiser introduced Bonnard, Denis, Ibels, and Ranson to The Talisman , in which the color is so generally distributed that the object depicted is not easily recognized. The more talented students at Académie Julian felt drawn together and gathered around Séruiser. Denis said in regard to Gauguin's example, "Gauguin feed us from all the restraints which the idea of copying nature had placed upon us. For instance, if it was permissible to use vermillion in painting a tree which seemed reddish, why not stress even to the point of deformation the curve of a beautiful shoulder or conventionalize the symmetry of a bough?" Color remained highly important to this group throughout their careers. Their color schemes tended to be subtle gradations of tone. Denis also said, "To the Nabis a picture had meaning only when it possessed 'style.' That is to say when the artist had succeeded in changing the shape of the objects he was looking at and imposing on them contours or a color that expressed his own personality." The Nabis were also highly influenced by Japanese art, particularly Japanese prints. They admired it for its decorative qualities and simplified flat spatial composition. The group also had strong associations with Symbolist art. They had a profound belief in the importance of everyday life and took and anti-elitist frame of mind; they though art should be more widely available. This was backed by their practice of printmaking, poster design, book illustration, textiles, and furniture and theatre design in addition to painting. Their aim was to regenerate painting by simplifying design and tone, suppressing relief and depth. The meetings of the Nabis covered a wide range of topics including painting and literature. They met on Saturdays in Ranson's studio and staged puppet shows and read poetry. Each of the members received nicknames from the others. Their group motto was "En ta paume, mon verbe et ma pensée", meaning "In the palm of your hand, my word and my thoughts," and they appear to have attempted to use this mantra as a guide for the work they created. In 1891 Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Lugné-Poe rented a workshop that was frequented by the other members. Lugné-Poe gained prominence on the French stage as an actor and producer and it was through him that Nabis entered the theatrical world, designing stage sets and programmes for him. The Nabis members were also acquainted with a number of contemporary French authors and illustrated many of their books. The members of the Nabis each had their own style but all seems to agree on art as a means of expression and thought that there was a close connection between form and emotion. Works of the Nabis tended to be decorative but always could be placed in a definite artistic and historical context. Bonnard and Vulliard , for example, developed links with earlier art. Bonnard's works can be paralleled with Japanese prints and Vulliard's to eighteenth century Japanese woodcut prints and highly decorated French printed cloths. In this respect, Nabis art required the viewer to have knowledge of the history of art. The group disbanded in 1899.