Each stroke, line, and curve had expressive potential, and the painted image had an independent existence as they sought to imbue the artwork with a deeper meaning beyond the fleeting moment one might normally observe on a canvas. As these young artists would explore new ideas about the artist and that artist’s expression, they found elegance and refinement in the Japanese art that was becoming available to view. The work impressed the Nabis because they themselves were in search of the simplicity of expression, as well as authenticity.
When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 and the Near East was subsequently colonized, a defining moment in the history of oriental art was established. The Middle East, which was until now nearly unreachable, could be accessed by people from the West. The Western artists were fascinated by the richness and diversity of the “orient’s” art and this influence showed in the evolving work being done in the era. As Lene S. Fort states in her essay, Femme Fatale or Caring Mother? The Orientalist Woman’s “artists never create in a vacuum, bringing to their interpretations the opinions and biases of their cultural environment as well as their own life experiences. Whether the Orientalist painter personally visited the East or not, he was depicting a land he experienced as an outsider.”(1) As the fascination with the ’Japanese’, (the French term for the influence of the Japanese art in nineteenth-century Western society), grew in France, the Nazis would find the simplicity of the form and line a great influence as they endeavored to create work that could express the emotional content that they were trying to achieve.
Though the Nabis as a unified group appreciated the Japanese art, some members were known to be more drawn towards the possibilities it presented. Paul Gauguin, who held a mentor like status for the Nabis, incorporated several elements of Japanese art in his paintings. .