PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)
PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)
PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)
PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)
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PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)

Le faucheur Breton

PAUL SÉRUSIER (1863-1927)
Le faucheur Breton
oil on canvas
36 x 20 1⁄8 in. (91.5 x 51 cm.)
Painted circa 1893
Marguerite Sérusier [the artist’s wife].
Acquired by 1966, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. Guicheteau, Paul Sérusier, Paris, 1976, no. 90, p. 214 (illustrated p. 215).
C. Boyle-Turner, Sérusier et la Bretagne, Douarnenez, 1995, p. 80 (illustrated).
Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre de Paul Sérusier (, no. H-020.Fig. (illustrated). Accessed 31 August 2023.
London, The Tate Gallery, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven Group, January - February 1966, no. 193, p. 39.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on long term loan from October 1974 until at least 1991.
Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Gauguin et l'École de Pont-Aven, April - May 1993, no. 65, p. 83 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, June - July 1993; Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, July - August 1993; Mie Prefectural Art Museum, September - October 1993 and Koriyama City Museum of Art, October - November 1993.
Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven, September - October 1994, no. 117, pp. 148 & 149 (illustrated p. 149); this exhibition later travelled to Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, November 1994 - January 1995; The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, February - April 1995; Memphis, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, May - July 1995; San Diego Museum of Art, July - October 1995; Portland Museum of Fine Arts, November 1995 - January 1996; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, June - September 1996.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Impressionism in the Age of Industry, February - May 2019, pp. 203 & 242 (illustrated p. 203).

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Lot Essay

In the summer of 1888, Paul Sérusier travelled from Paris to the rural town of Pont-Aven, in Brittany, where he met Paul Gauguin. The encounter would profoundly transform his practice, resulting in Le faucheur Breton, a striking example of how the artist linked the Nabis and Pont-Aven school. Sérusier had, since 1886, studied at the Académie Julian, and he went to Brittany because some of his colleagues were staying in the small town. For these artists, the region served as a dramatic foil to the sooty factories and roaring trains of la vie moderne. The Breton culture – with its well preserved traditions and rites – seemed to offer a purer, more essential way of being; Brittany was, as Guy de Maupassant wrote, a ‘proud, wild region still shrouded in superstition… One has only to set foot there to live the life of times gone by' (G. de Maupassant quoted in D. Wildenstein, Gauguin: A Savage in the Making, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Milan, 2002, vol. II, p. 365).
Sérusier took a room at the Pension Gloanec where Gauguin was also residing, but it was not until the end of his stay that the two finally met. Gauguin, struck by the younger artist’s work, offered to give him a painting lesson, and they met in the Bois d’Amour, just a short distance from the pension. There, Gauguin encouraged Sérusier to paint the experience of the colours he saw in the wood. ‘What colour do you see that tree?’ he said. ‘Is it green? Then use green, the finest green in your palette. And that shadow? It’s blue, if anything? Don’t be afraid to paint it as blue as possible’ (M. Denis quoting P. Gauguin in Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890-1930, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 2001, p. 17).
Once back in Paris, Sérusier shared the ideas and painting techniques that he had exchanged with Gauguin with his friends Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, and Édouard Vuillard, who together made up the Nabis. Derived from the Hebrew word for prophet, the Nabis ‘rejected painting as an illusionistic window onto nature – a concept primarily associated with easel painting – in favour of art as décoration,’ stressing the continuity between art and design (N. Watkins, ‘The Genesis of a Decorative Aesthetic’, in ibid., p. 1). As Sérusier remarked to Denis, ‘I dream of a future brotherhood, purified, composed only of artists, dedicated lovers of beauty and good, putting into their work and way of conducting themselves, the undefinable character that I would translate as “Nabi”’ (P. Sérusier quoted in ibid., p. 32).
Over the next several years, Sérusier frequently returned to Brittany, working alongside Gauguin, Émile Bernard, and Meyer de Haan. He served, accordingly, as the link between the Nabis and the Pont-Aven, a relationship embodied in Le faucheur Breton, the present work. Painted during a time when Sérusier was living in Huelgoat, the work’s vertical format and pared down imagery suggest that it was likely intended to be used as a decorative panel. The plunging perspective and lack of spatial depth recall the Japanese prints that were, at this time, all the rage. Likewise, the impact of Vincent van Gogh’s oeuvre is noticeable. In 1892, Sérusier visited the widow of Theo van Gogh while on a trip to Holland. Upon his return to France, he worked on several painterly homages to Van Gogh, and the manner in which he applied paint in the present work echoes that of the Dutch artist. Indeed, Sérusier spent much of this period exploring several dissimilar albeit not incompatible influences, and their impact can be seen in the flat, broad swathes of paint and limited palette of Le faucheur Breton. As Caroline Boyle-Turner notes, ‘Séruser was searching for his own style’ and in his devotion to Brittany – its history and culture, beauty and landscape – he found it (C. Boyle-Turner, Paul Sérusier, Ann Arbor, 1983, p. 77).

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