Born in Paris, Paul Sérusier studied at the Académie Julian, an alternative to the elite and conservative École des Beaux-Arts. During his training, he visited the artist colony established in Pont-Aven, where he met a group of Symbolists. Working closely with his friends, Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, and Édouard Vuillard, Sérusier employed bold colors and flattened forms to illustrate his thoughts on the canvas. Seeking liberation from the strictures of classical painting and the recent Impressionist movement, Sérusier was a pioneer of Post-Impressionism, eventually founding the group Les Nabis, named after the Hebrew word for "prophet."

As the leader of the Nabis, Sérusier sought to paint what he felt as well as what he saw. He also sought unity between decoration and fine art, as did the Arts and Crafts movement in England. Many of Sérusier's paintings were meant to fit in seamlessly with their surroundings, to be as aesthetically pleasing as they were intellectually stimulating. Advancing toward abstraction, Sérusier helped to usher in a new era in artistic innovation, pushing painting away from representation to focus on sensation and evocation. Beginning in 1908, his influence was broadened as an instructor at the École Ranson, founded by fellow Nabi Paul Ranson, where students were encouraged to embrace the expressive and evocative potentials of abstraction. The École Ranson was a popular training ground for modernist painters until World War II.