Paul Serusier (1863-1927)
Paul Serusier (1863-1927)

Chemin au bord du lavoir ou Bretons au bord de la route

Paul Serusier (1863-1927)
Chemin au bord du lavoir ou Bretons au bord de la route
signed and dated 'P. Sérusier 1894' (on the reverse)
tempera on canvas
13¾ x 36¼ in. (35 x 92 cm.)
Painted in 1894
(possibly) Gabriella Zapolska (gift from the artist).
Acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1945.

Lot Essay

The Comité Sérusier has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

It was during one of Sérusier's stays at the lake at Huelgoat between 1891 and 1893 that, seeking a renewal of his palette, the artist abandoned the lush colors of his paintings created in Pont-Aven for the subtle shades of gray and ocher that imbue the present painting with a sense of mystery. Chemin au bord du lavoir, executed in the forests of Châteauneuf-du-Faou in 1894, perfectly displays Sérusier's preoccupation with the Breton culture and way of life, which provided a rich source of visual material to him and his fellow Nabis. His almost daring abstraction of the landscape, with its flat composition and sense of undulating movement throughout call to mind Gauguin's work of this time; while the stylized waves, simple divisions and calligraphic touches were deeply influenced by Japanese printmaking.

Chemin au bord du lavoir was most likely intended as part of the interior decoration Sérusier conceived for his Polish mistress, Gabriella Zapolska. Lively, intelligent and unconventional, something of her vibrant spirit rubbed off on Sérusier's paintings during their two year affair. In 1893 Gabriella wrote a letter to Adam Wislick, editor of the Courrier de Varsovie, imploring him to visit her home in Paris to view the panels the artist was painting for her dining room. In her letter she enthuses upon the Breton landscape represented by moonlit rocks, trees, ponds and peasants. Two other panels from this series, entitled Jeux d'enfants bretons (fig. 1) and Les deux vachers dans la prairie (fig. 2), can be found in the Fine Arts Museum in Warsaw.

(fig. 1) Paul Sérusier, Jeux d'enfants bretons, 1894. Musée National de Varsovie.

(fig. 2) Paul Sérusier, Les deux vachers dans la prairie, 1894. Musée National de Varsovie.

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