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For the first time in France since 1968, a major retrospective is dedicated to Ker-Xavier Roussel. Roussel was a painter apart, who entered the history of art among the Nabis and whose modernity goes against the XXth century. From July 27 to November 11, 2019, the musée des impressionnismes Giverny presents a surprising journey, composed largely of unpublished paintings.

A career start within the Nabis group

Friend and brother-in-law of Édouard Vuillard, Ker-Xavier Roussel remained in the shadow of the painters of the Nabis group, which he joined after having rejected his academic training. During this period, he is puzzled in the face of the precepts of Paul-Élie Ranson and Paul Sérusier, around whom the group was formed. His Nabie works evoke at the same time the painting styles of Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. His experience of synthetism is distinguished by an elegant rigor in his compositions and a great sobriety of tones. From the end of the 1890s, he broke away from everyday life and his painting evolved towards a dream world, filled with characters from Greek and Roman mythology.

A mythological painting, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche and Ovid

Abandoning the small formats that characterize his Nabi period, Ker-Xavier Roussel then composed vast mythological narratives: celebrations of the seasons, the myth of abundance or even dance. The influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose first French translations Roussel read in 1892, can be perceived in all of his works. Indeed, the exuberance specific to the philosopher’s ideas permeates the processions of Bacchus, the groups of nymphs and satyrs crossing the landscapes dreams of the painter. At the heart of the serenity of the Arcadian landscapes, a powerful eroticism emerges from the scenes painted by Ker-Xavier Roussel, who evoke Ovid. From the fables of the Latin poet, the painter has indeed retained the subtle mixture of rural atmosphere and sexual desire, which thus gives a double meaning to his works.

Melancholy, violence and despair

This exhibition also presents a graphic art cabinet which will not fail to challenge the visitor, as it contrasts with the cheerfulness, vitality and colorful universe of the rest of the artist’s production. There, everything is only dramas and black legends, revealing the depressive episodes from which the artist suffers. This selection of inks on paper and pastels testify to all the graphic virtuosity of Ker-Xavier Roussel.

Life-size sceneries

The last part of the exhibition celebrates Ker-Xavier Roussel’s talent as a decorator. Visitors are introduced to very large formats, while the scenes reveal a very particular aspect of the artist’s work: the representation of mythological scenes in the midst of everyday landscapes. Thus, the countryside of Yvelines, around Marly, serves as a backdrop. While Claude Monet depicts his garden at Giverny in his famous representations of water lilies and Japanese bridges, Ker-Xavier Roussel places his characters in his garden at Étang-la-Ville.

This exhibition thus presents around a hundred works by Ker-Xavier Roussel, paying homage to his nabies experiments, his mythological representations, his decorative power and his graphic delicacy.

Curator: Mathias Chivot, art historian and author of the Ker-Xavier Roussel catalog.

This exhibition is organized by the musée des impressionnismes Giverny with the exceptional support of the musée d’Orsay.

In images

Zoom on the works

Ker-Xavier Roussel, La Terrasse

  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • La Terrasse, vers 1892.
  • Huile sur toile, 36 x 75 cm. Paris, musée d’Orsay

Ker-Xavier Roussel, Le Cap d’Antibes

  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • Le Cap d’Antibes, vers 1926.
  • Peinture à la colle, pastel et fusain sur papier monté sur toile, 86 x 124 cm. Collection particulière

Ker-Xavier Roussel, Dans le verger de L’Étang-la-Ville

  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • Dans le verger de L’Étang-la-Ville, vers 1928.
  • Peinture à la colle sur toile, 129 x 298 cm. Collection particulière

Ker-Xavier Roussel, Le Pêcheur

  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • Le Pêcheur, vers 1890-1891.
  • Huile sur toile, 22 x 15 cm. Collection particulière


Our patrons and partners

The museum warmly thanks the patrons and partners of this exhibition.


  • Logo Caisse d’Epargne Normandie, mécène du musée des impressionnismes Giverny
  • Logo Quadra Consultants, mécène du musée des impressionnismes Giverny
  • Logo Sanef Albertis, mécène du musée des impressionnismes Giverny
  • Logo Sanef 107.7, mécène du musée des impressionnismes Giverny
  • Logo Capza, mécène du musée des impressionnismes Giverny
  • Logo Orange, partenaire du musée des impressionnismes Giverny

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