Paul Sérusier French artist and intellectual post-impressionism

Girl from Savoy. Paul Sérusier
Girl from Savoy

Paul Sérusier is a French painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A prominent representative of post-impressionism, Paul Sérusier became the founder and ideological inspirer of the Nabis group, which worked in the spirit of synthetic symbolism. A philosopher and intellectual, he painted landscapes and figured compositions, conveying the surrounding reality with simple forms and a rich palette. Paul Sérusier’s work was not limited to paintings – the artist painted temples, taught at the academy and wrote a book about painting.

Paul Sérusier. Shower. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. France.
Shower. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. France.

Biography of Paul Sérusier

Paul Sérusier comes from a wealthy family. He was born in Paris on November 9, 1864 and, according to his father’s plans, was to become a successful businessman and a worthy heir to the Houbigant perfume factory. Therefore, after graduating from the Lycée Condorcet, the young man was assigned to serve in the Marion stationery store, so that he could practically comprehend the basics of entrepreneurship.

Spring. Paul Sérusier

But Paul Sérusier, who was distinguished by charisma, beautiful appearance and developed intellect (bachelor of mathematics), became interested in philosophy and art during his studies. He wrote plays, studied Arabic and Hebrew, and enjoyed oriental culture and painting. Completely indifferent to commerce, Paul insisted on entering the Académie Julian.

Paul Sérusier was a successful student and a favorite student of the teachers. He wrote The Workshop of a Breton Weaver and was highly praised, which consoled parents who doubted the correct choice of their son. But the young artist did not want to create in an academic manner – it seemed to him that painting required drastic changes.

Apple Harvest. Paul Sérusier
Apple Harvest

He discovered the colorful world of Paul Gauguin

In 1888, the young painter visited a school in Pont-Aven, where Gauguin, in company with Émile Bernard, invented new forms of painting, and aspiring artists came here in search of their own path. It was difficult to find the best place to meet the idol. When Sérusier decided to have a frank conversation with Gauguin, his mentor took him to the Pont-Aven forest and taught a master class on painting a landscape.

Paul Sérusier. Breton woman going to the washing place
Breton woman going to the washing place

The short lesson proved to be very fruitful. Sérusier developed a habit that he adhered to all his life – to create the main part of the picture in the open air, finishing it in the studio. And most importantly, under the guidance of Gauguin, Paul Sérusier wrote “Talisman”, which he took to Paris and showed to his fellow students. Inspired by Gauguin’s cloisonnism, he completely changed his idea of ​​art and introduced his friends to the idea of ​​synthetic symbolism as a guideline for finding a new format for painting.

Farm in Brittany. Paul Sérusier
Farm in Brittany

This is how the art group Nabis, translated from French as “prophets”, was born. Members of the community gathered every Saturday for creative dinners, during which they dressed up in exotic clothes and practiced a lot of art. At the end of the meeting, each artist present presented a new work. “Nabis” grew into a separate movement, headed by Sérusier.

Paul Sérusier, who originally wrote in the Gauguin style, gradually developed his own style.

A certain influence on creativity is exerted by a passion for Theosophy and Catholicism. He remains faithful to the description of landscapes, but more and more often puts mythological and religious meanings into them. The artist creates compositions with intellectual content, where the heroes of the plot, ordinary people, personify mythological or biblical images.

Loneliness. Museum of Fine Arts, Rennes, France
Loneliness. Museum of Fine Arts, Rennes, France

In 1907 he became a professor at the Academy of Ranson, and in 1912 he got married, but the marriage was unhappy. The serious illness of his wife often distracted Paul Sérusier from work. In 1914 the artist retired and devoted himself entirely to the creation of the main theoretical work – “The ABC of Painting”, which he finished in 1921. In the last years of his life, the master wrote little. He passed away on October 7, 1927 in the Breton city of Morlaix.

The most famous paintings by Paul Sérusier

Paul Sérusier’s paintings find a lively response among contemporary art critics and collectors. Among the most significant are the following works of the painter:

  1. The Breton Weaver’s Workshop (1888) is a student work exhibited at the Paris Salon in the year of writing. One of the few paintings by the master in the academic style.
  2. The Talisman (1888) is a work that determined the future of Paul Sérusier and a whole galaxy of French artists. Written under the direction of Paul Gauguin on the wooden base of a cigar box.
  3. “Portrait of Paul Ranson in the vestment of Nabis” (1890) – the picture was painted in the tradition of cloisonnism. One of the few portraits painted by Sérusier.
  4. The Pont-Aven Triptych (1891) is a vivid example of the synthesis of everyday and religious painting. Breton peasant women, according to the author’s idea, should evoke a number of associations in the viewer. The woman picking the apple symbolizes Eve, and the peasant woman with the baby symbolizes the Mother of God.
Plate of Apples
Plate of Apples
Seaweed Gatherer
Seaweed Gatherer
Self-portrait with a shimmering beard (circa 1907-1908)
Self-portrait with a shimmering beard (circa 1907-1908)
The Seat at Poldu Sunset
The Seat at Poldu Sunset
Yellow Farm at Pouldu
Yellow Farm at Pouldu
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