In September 1888, Sérusier met Gauguin at Pont-Aven and under his influence began to experiment with a new style of painting in which simple forms and flat colours were chosen for emotional rather than descriptive reasons. Sérusier was the first to introduce this style, often referred to as Synthesism or Cloisonnism, to other young artists in Paris, who were later to become known as the Nabis.
"Returning from Pont-Aven to Paris in October 1888, Sérusier had shown his recent works to the little group of his intimate friends at Julian's (The Académie Julian in the Faubourg Saint-Denis)...Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Félix Vallatton, and Paul Ranson...With the enthusiasm of the proselyte Sérusier had in fact gone much further in abstraction than Gauguin himself...Explaining this work, Sérusier conveyed to his friends Gauguin's 'message' that instead of copying nature as one percieved it, one should represent it, transmute it into a play of vivid colours, emphasizing simple, expressive, original arabesques for the pleasure of the eye" (J. Rewald, Post-Impressionism from van Gogh to Gauguin, New York, 1956, p. 275).
Gauguin's very words to Sérusier were set down by Denis "What colour do you see that tree? Is it green? Then use green, the finest green on your palette. And that shadow? It's blue, if anything? Don't be afraid to paint it as blue as you possibly can" (M. Denis, 'L'Influence de Paul Gauguin', L'Occidente, October, 1903).
Sérusier returned to Brittany for the next few summers, where a growing number of artists were congregating, attracted by the colourful costumes of the local people, the striking landscape and, not least, by the affordable lifestyle. Mère et Enfant dans un Paysage Breton dates from the summer of 1890, when the School of Pont-Aven was at its height.
The present work originally belonged to Pierre Bonnard, who met Sérusier when they were both students at the Académie Julian. A year after this picture was painted, Bonnard and Sérusier worked together on the stage designs for three plays performed at Paul Fort's Théâtre de l'Art.
Marcel Guichetau has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.