Sérusier was born in Paris and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he met Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. He later studied under Paul Cézanne, but only briefly before leaving for Brittany. There, he painted The Talisman (Le Talisman), a work that would come to be seen as the Nabi manifesto.
In 1890, Sérusier returned to Paris and exhibited The Talisman at the Salon des Indépendants. The painting was met with derision by the critics, but Sérusier’s friends were all immensely impressed. Among them was Maurice Denis, who proclaimed that “a painting is not a representation of an object, but instead is an object itself.”
This philosophy would come to define the Nabis. The group sought to free painting from the constraints of realism and create art that was more subjective and expressive. To this end, they often employed Symbolist imagery and bold color harmonies.
Sérusier remained an active member of the Nabis until 1896, when he left to pursue his own artistic direction. He continued to produce noteworthy work throughout his career, but The Talisman continues to be seen as his most important contribution to the history of art.