Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) went to the Breton town of Pont-Aven in the summer of 1888, where he got to know Paul Gauguin, who would give him decisive impulses for his landscape painting. The rhythmic arrangement of large color fields, doing without modeling and the importance of the line are the most fundamental principles, which turned against the surface painting of Impressionism, and tried to transcend physical reality. Sérusier applied what he had learnt in a landscape which he painted on the lid of a cigar box. The painting is titled "The Talisman" and became the manifesto of the newly founded group "Nabis".
The name "Nabis" is Hebrew and means "prophets", it was coined by the poet Henri Cazalis. The choice of this term has a certain ironic notion, as the group's self-conception, as insiders of an art that regarded itself as a sort of religious revelation, was always back and forth between earnestness and fun. The "Nabis" members met at first in a café in the Passage Brady and later in Paul Ranson's domicile in Montparnasse. They had their first exhibition in 1892. The group began to gradually break up after a very successful exhibition in the Galerie Durand-Ruel, which played an important role for the Paris vanguard, in 1899.
The principles of "The Talisman" were continued in the art of "Nabis", even though the employed media and styles were varying. Maurice Denis (1870-1943) summarized the concept of painting as "two-dimensional surfaces that are covered with colors in a certain order". This concept of art lay the foundation for abstraction. The relation between Symbolism and autonomous art can also be observed with the personal development of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky or Piet Mondrian. Mediating the spiritual is therefore bound to the dissolution of material form.
The most relevant "Nabis" representatives, besides Sérusier and Denis - who were the groups theorists, were Paul Ranson, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Émile Bernard, Félix Valloton, Ker-Xavier Roussel and Georges Lacombe.