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Paul Sérusier (1863-1927)
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Paul Sérusier (1864-1927)

Jeune bretonne au pot vermillon et fillette agenouillée

Details
Paul Sérusier (1864-1927)
Jeune bretonne au pot vermillon et fillette agenouillée
signed 'P Sérusier' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 28 3/4 in. (92 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1892
Provenance
Private collection, Switzerland, by whom acquired directly from the artist in Paris circa 1920, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 9 February 2005, lot 435.
Pierre Lévy, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013.
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Sale room notice
Please note the medium of this work is oil on paper laid down on canvas.

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Michelle McMullan, Specialist, Head of Day Sale
Michelle McMullan, Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the online catalogue raisonné of Paul Sérusier being prepared by the Comité Sérusier.

In the Summer of 1891, Serusier returned to Pont-Aven. Not to the old haunt of his master Paul Gauguin, but together with his new friends Jan Verkade and Mogens Ballin, he ventured further inland, passing through Huelgoat and Chateauneuf-du-Faou, which would later become his permanent home. Following the active, formative Nabi and Symbolist years of 1888-1890, the artist sought the peace and calm of the Breton life and found, without the shadow of Gauguin and the stimulation of Paris, he could turn back to nature. Over the course of his time spent in Brittany, Sérusier developed his own aesthetic to commemorate the mysticism of the natural world he observed around him. The Brittany region (Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu in particular) held a welcomed contrast to la vie moderne of Paris at the turn of the century. The Breton culture and way of life was quite distinctive in its unspoiled and timeless tranquility, and Sérusier was fascinated by the rustic beauty and simplicity of life in the region. As John Rewald explained, “It was not a particularly varied landscape, yet it had a character of peacefulness to which the almost superstitiously devout Catholicism of the peasants in their picturesque Breton costumes added a touch of medieval mysticism” (Post-Impressionism from Van Gogh to Gauguin, New York, 1956, p. 167).

In its simplicity of line, form, space and colour, Jeune fille au pot vermillon et fillette agenouillée displays the influence of Japanese art, well known and available in Paris by 1892, but also of Breton folk art and of many Breton Gothic churches, frescos and monuments visited with Ballin. As Caroline Boyle-Turner notes: "This indigenous [Breton Gothic art] was more in keeping with Sérusier's perception of the harsh realities of life in Brittany than were the smooth arabesques of his earlier works [...] Serusier had come to know Brittany and its people and was aware of the severity of life in this area. He had come into contact with its inhabitants and knew more about the realities of life from first-hand conversations and observations. It is natural that his painting of the Huelgoat period reflect a new awareness of the actuality of Brittany than the idealization." (C Boyle-Turner, Paul Sérusier, 1980, p. 62).
Primitive fresco painting was another pervading influence on the artist and can be seen here in the more muted palette and the shallow picture-space. Serusier brings the figures to the fore with their sharply elongated Giotto-esque faces while obscuring the horizon with trees that mimic the figures and in turn recall the grace of Japanese prints. The characteristically severe face of the peasant is juxtaposed with the tranquil scene behind her. The red of the forest floor creates the effect of a flat screen while distantly echoing Gauguin's Vision après le Sermon.

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