27 September 2016
The Van Gogh Museum has added a characteristic painting by Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) to its important collection of works by contemporaries of Van Gogh.
Farm in Brittany (c. 1890), a recent purchase, complements the group of works by the Pont-Aven School. The work has hung on the second floor, where other paintings in this collection are also on display, since 18 September.
Addition to the Pont-Aven Collection
Paul Sérusier is the best-known and most important artist of the Pont-Aven School, save for Paul Gauguin. The Van Gogh Museum has a small but significant collection of works by this French artists’ group, which was active around Pont-Aven, their base in Brittany, between 1886 and 1894.
The artists of the Pont-Aven School wanted to capture Brittany’s rugged landscape and simple folk. In this they had much in common with Van Gogh, who also often chose unspoilt countryside as his subject. The museum illustrated the artistic interaction between Van Gogh and the Pont-Aven School with works by Gauguin, Émile Bernard and Meijer de Haan, but it did not have a painting by Paul Sérusier. The Van Gogh Museum is therefore especially pleased with the acquisition of Farm in Brittany, which is very typical of his work.
Farm in Brittany: The Essence of the Landscape
Like other artists in the Pont-Aven School, Sérusier was attracted by the timeless landscape of Brittany. The work the museum has purchased is a fine example of Sérusier’s Breton style, in which he was influenced by the older Gauguin. The sloping meadow with a farmyard, a haystack and a few trees and stones looks primitive. Sérusier did not seek to render the scene realistically, but composed his own harmonious entity.
He captured the essence of the landscape with flat shapes in bright colours, surrounded by flowing outlines. The simplicity is further emphasized because the painter left the paint surface matt and unvarnished. After it was purchased, Farm in Brittany was restored and placed in an appropriate frame, reinstating the artist’s original intention.
Van Gogh and Sérusier: Artistic Exchange
Van Gogh was in touch with the artists’ colony in Pont-Aven through his correspondence with Gauguin and Bernard. They sent one another sketches and paintings, and an artistic exchange came into being. As far as we know, Van Gogh never saw a painting by Sérusier. And yet there was an affinity between the two artists.
The primitive subject and the reduction of the landscape to its essence was also important to Van Gogh, although he did not go as far as Sérusier in his idealization of reality. Sérusier admired Van Gogh’s work. In 1892 he even produced an ode to the artist in his painting The Haymaker, a Homage to Van Gogh. Farm in Brittany is a magnificent addition to the Van Gogh Museum’s collection.