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Synthetism

The art theory that Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin had developed in the Briton town of Pont-Aven (1888-91) and that other painters from their surroundings pursued, is often referred to as "Synthetism". The artists combine a slightly literary concept of Symbolism with the use of forms in Cloisonism and thus were an important model for the group "Nabis". The first exhibition with representatives from this movement took place in 1889, when Gauguin organized the exhibition "Group of Impressionists and Synthetists" in the Parisian Café Volpini. In 1891 the "Groupe Synthétiste" was founded, with members, besides Bernard and Gauguin, such as Charles Laval, Louis Anquetin and others.
The aim of "Synthetism" was the return to the fundamental forms of esthetic expression, in order to get to what is essential. In Bernard's opinion, real artistic expression could only be attained by simplification of form and colors. Gauguin often spoke of a "Synthesis", meaning the concentrated intensification of the original experience of nature. In his view, the artist was supposed to paint from his memory, as the appearances of nature can only take on a uniform and meaningful form if memories have been tinged with emotions. Accordingly, the desired "Synthesis" should form a unity of symbolic meaning and perception.
Paintings that were created according to this criteria are characterized by a two-dimensional and ornamental arrangement of simplified forms and figures with thick black contours. Consciously following the trends in music, the painters were experimenting with pure "sounds", entirely without modeling and independent of nature, in order to attain poetic content.


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