PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)
PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)
PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)
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PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Roger Sant Collection
PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)

Filles aux grands sables

Details
PAUL SERUSIER (1863-1927)
Filles aux grands sables
oil on canvas
36 3/8 x 28 7/8 in. (92.5 x 73.4 cm.)
Painted in 1891
Provenance
Galerie Druet, Paris (probably acquired from the artist).
Charles Malpel, Paris (acquired from the above, 1907).
Maurice Malpel, Paris (by descent from the above, 1926).
Private collection, France (acquired from the above, 1960, then by descent).
Francis Lombrail, Paris (acquired from the above, 1980).
Galerie Interart, Geneva (acquired from the above, 2005).
Private collection, Paris (acquired from the above, 2005).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2 April 2007.
Literature
M. Guicheteau, Paul Sérusier, Pontoise, 1989, vol. II, p. 84, no. 12 (illustrated; titled Jeunes Bretonnes au bord de la mer).
Exhibited
Paris, Serres du Cours-la Reine, Société des artistes indépendants, 23me exposition, March-April 1907, p. 289, no. 4509 (titled Grands-Sables (Pouldu)).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., La revue blanche: Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism and Symbolism, November-December 1983, pp. 59 and 86 (illustrated in color, p. 59; titled Les trois fillettes au Pouldu and dated circa 1890).
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée départemental du Prieuré, Le chemin de Gauguin, genèse et rayonnement, October 1985-March 1986, pp. 53 and 207, no. 75 (illustrated in color, p. 52; titled Les trois fillettes au Pouldu and dated circa 1890).
Morlaix, Musée des Jacobins, Paul Serusier, July-October 1987, no. 2 (illustrated in color; illustrated in color again on the cover; titled Trois fillettes au Pouldu and dated 1889-1890).
Yokohama Museum of Art; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Kyoto Museum of Art, Gauguin et ses amis peintres—La collection Marie Henry—“Buvette de la Plage,” Le Pouldu, en Bretagne, April-August 1992, pp. 145 and 203, no. 90 (illustrated in color, p. 145; titled Les trois fillettes au Pouldu ou Jeunes Bretonnes au bord de la mer and dated 1889).
Aoste, Centre de Saint-Benin, Gauguin et ses amis peintres en Bretagne, Pont-Aven et le Pouldu, July-November 1993, vol. I, p. 144 (illustrated in color, p. 145; illustrated in color again on the cover; titled Trois fillettes au Pouldu ou Jeunes Bretonnes au bord de la mer and dated 1890); and vol. II, p. 66 (illustrated).
Special notice

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

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Lot Essay

In the final months of 1888, Paul Sérusier traveled from the capital city of Paris to the small town of Pont-Aven in Brittany. The French author Guy de Maupassant described this rural province as a “proud, wild region still shrouded in superstition…One has only to set foot there to live the life of times gone by” (quoted in D. Wildenstein, Gauguin: A Savage in the Making, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Milan, 2002, vol. II, p. 365). Indeed, there was a timelessness to life in Brittany; the profound lessons that Sérusier learned there stayed with him and continued to inform his work long after he returned to Paris—as demonstrated by his 1891 canvas, Filles aux grands sables.
Sérusier initially trained as an artist at the renowned Parisian art school, the Académie Julian, between 1885 and 1890. Soon, however, Sérusier grew restless within those institutional confines; he began to yearn for a more radical approach. This urge led him to seek out Paul Gauguin, who was at the center of a burgeoning artist’s colony in Pont-Aven. Gauguin, who specifically encouraged Sérusier's experiments in coloration, famously advised him as follows: “What color do you see that tree? 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” (quoted in Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890-1930, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 2001, p. 17). Sérusier ultimately ventured further into abstraction than his elder mentor ever did, pushing his landscape paintings nearly past the point of recognition—as evidenced by his most famous painting, Le Talisman, l'Aven au Bois d’Amour (Guicheteau, no. 2; 1888, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
Once back in Paris, Sérusier shared the ideas and painting techniques that he had exchanged with Gauguin and the young Synthetist Emile Bernard with his friends, including Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. Sérusier thus became “the direct and vital link between Pont-Aven and the Nabis”—the new name assumed by this cohort of young artists (R.T. Clement, A. Houzé and C. Erbolato-Ramsey, A Sourcebook of Gauguin's Symbolist Followers, Westport, 2004, p. 231). As a founding member of the Nabis, derived from the Hebrew word for prophet, Sérusier and his colleagues declared themselves to be “seers” of the future of modern art. As Sérusier clairvoyantly asserted, “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’” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2001, p. 32).
Unlike his fellow Nabi painters, however, Sérusier returned to Brittany even after Gauguin had left for Tahiti; he established his own studio there in 1891, the same year he painted Filles aux grands sables. Sérusier found renewed inspiration in the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Breton village of Le Pouldu, which feature in the background of the present work. The painting depicts three young girls, dressed in simple pinafores of green, blue and blood orange, who frolic across the barren plateau of the seaside cliff. Their youthful curiosity, joyful play, and plain attire paralleled Sérusier’s own naive, unfussy painting technique, which is much more solid and legible than his earlier experiments with abstraction in the heady summer days of 1888.
Sérusier sold Filles aux grands sables to the Galerie E. Druet in Paris, who in turn sold the work in 1907 to Charles Malpel—an attorney, wine producer and a major art collector, as well as the author of the 1910 text, Notes sur l’art d’aujourd’hui et peut-être de demain (Notes on the Art of Today and Perhaps Tomorrow). Malpel supported several artists of the key artistic movements of the early twentieth century, including Paul Signac, Kees van Dongen and Marc Chagall. He also built an important collection of Neo-Impressionist and Nabi paintings, often acquiring works directly from the artists in exchange for a barrel of wine. Sérusier’s Filles aux grands sables remained in the Malpel family collection for over half a century, after which it entered a number of private collections.

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