Picasso, Monet, Turner ….. planted their easel on the land of Brittany …from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, this region was a source of inspiration for painters fascinated by the wild landscapes and local folk legends .. but this is the group of Nabi painters who sought to see in the different towns of the region multiple places to remain and based schools and workshops …
The village of Pont-Aven, Brittany, France.
Paul Gauguin, Paul Serusier, Felix Jobbé-Duval, Valloton, Vuilliard, Emile Bernard, Maurice Denis, the theoretician of the Nabi movement, chose the smalltowns of Pont-Aven in Brittany, and that of Pouldu, not far, to found an eponymous group, the Pont Aven group. Seduced by the mysterious and misty atmosphere of the village and its surroundings, Gauguin, Maurice Denis and their companions have ignited with bright polychrome visions the farms, mills, barns, village festivals, themes of daily life of peasants and sailors … Holidays and traditions with religious processions at pardons were an opportunity for many to represent the colorful beautiful costumes. They revisited these sites and themes entirely in warm and metaphysical colors.
Paul Gauguin. Breton Girls Dancing, Pont-Aven. 1888. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Paul Gauguin. Washerwomen at Pont-Aven. 1886. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Emile Bernard, Les Bretonnes aux Ombrelles.
Emile Bernard, Bord de mer en Bretagne (Seashore in Brittany).
Edouard Vuilliard, En Bretagne, Saint Jacut, 1909, Browse & Darby Ltd. Gallery.
Paul Sérusier, Les porcelets au Pouldu (Piglets of Pouldu), Oil on canvas, 1889, Musée of Pont Aven.
These modest and quiet places became a hotbed of artistic cosmopolistism. Alongside the French, the English, Danes, Finns, Irish such as Roderic O’Connor were living side by side in small inns in the city…
Roderic O’Connor, Houses of Lezaven.
Roderic O’Connor, FIeld of Corn, Pont-Aven.
Britons with their customs, beliefs and legends fascinated even other artists. They formed colonies in Concarneau, Douarnenez, Camaret, Rochefort en Terre, Pont-Croix, Cancale, at Faouët…and like Pont-Aven, became the resort of a colony of cosmopolitan artists.
The arrival of Paul Gauguin and his followers at Pont-Aven and then in Pouldu marked an important milestone in the history of painting. Emile Bernard, Maxime Maufra, Henry Moret, Charles Filiger, Paul Serusier have, on the advice of their master, presented a new pictorial theory that established a complete break with most traditional practices.
They focused their practice to find the « sacrality » of the art and caused a renewed spiritual though. Detached or not of Christianity, the Nabi artists looked for ways to link their art to new spiritual philosophies and doctrines influenced by East, Orphism, esotericism and theosophy, in reaction against impressionism, naturalism, freeing painting from the shackles of realism.
Gauguin, Self portrait in Yellow Christ, 1889-1890. Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm . Paris, Musée d’Orsay.
Paul Serusier, Le Talisman or L’Aven au Bois d’Amour, Octobre 1888, Huile sur bois, Musée d’Orsay.
The four Breton Girls, Gauguin, c.1886. Oil on canvas. Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.