The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced this week that it has acquired The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Pouldu, an ambitious painting by Paul Sérusier (1864-1927), a pioneering Post-Impressionist who inspired the Nabis art movement and helped revolutionize 19th-century French art.
During the summer of 1888 Sérusier, a student at the Académie Julian, a renowned private art school in Paris, traveled to Pont-Aven (Brittany, northwestern France), a small artist enclave where Paul Gauguin agreed to take him as an apprentice. Rejecting the approach of Impressionists who focused on the light, color and shading to give visual dimension to a subject, Gauguin had already begun to distill subjects to their essence, formed by bold, flat planes of color and contour lines, a style that came to be known as Cloisonnism. Gauguin also delved into Synthetism, a style which sought to explore and visually convey poetry, spirituality and emotion. Working with Gauguin was a transformative experience for Sérusier, helping him expand his own artistic vision.
Sérusier returned to Paris with an unfinished work, created under Gaugin’s direction, that reduced a view of Aven River and the adjoining wooded area to its elemental components. The result was profoundly innovative, sensational and influential. Several of his peers at Académie Julian, including Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Jean-Édouard Vuillard and Paul-Élie Ranson, exalted the painted sketch, originally titled The Bois d’Amour at Pont Aven before Ranson aptly renamed it The Talisman (now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris). Aspiring to re-envision painting, these artists formed a group named the Nabis (French: Les Nabis, a derivation of nebiim, Hebrew for prophet), active in France from 1888 to 1900. The Nabis created art that diverged from realism, infusing their art with vivid color and resonating metaphor and symbolism.
The following year, in 1889, Gauguin left Pont-Aven and settled for a time in nearby Le Pouldu, a Breton fishing village in northwestern France. Sérusier joined him there for a few weeks in the fall and further developed his philosophy of painting, pushing beyond Gauguin’s Synthetism and advancing his own work with more confident, intentional and innovative results. Sérusier’s most ambitious work from this trip, The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Pouldu, began as a plein air sketch and took on new life in the artist’s studio. The cottage and surrounding ponds, marsh grasses, wheat fields and haystacks are formed by the dynamic interplay between flat planes of complementary colors—swaths of warm ochre offset by deep blue and patches of russet red against dark green. The undulating compositional elements and repeated use of colors create a continued sense of movement, interrupted by textured vertical lines which effectively root the viewer in the foreground.
“The overall effect of this experiment was nothing less than the total sublimation of the outward appearance of the painter’s surroundings into a landscape inhabited by spiritual presence, a mystical vision rendered onto the canvas with a bold harmonization of color and form,” said Dr. Sylvain Cordier, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art. The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Pouldu “is one of the earliest works to demonstrate how the Nabis artists would transform the foundations of art and distinguish their work from their Impressionist predecessors.”
“The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Pouldu is an important addition to the European art collection at VMFA as it provides a crucial contextual link between Post-Impressionist paintings by Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh in the museum’s Mellon Collection, as well as later modern artists like Bonnard and Matisse.” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO.
“When situated between the paintings of Gauguin and Van Gogh in the newly renovated Mellon Galleries at VMFA next year, Sérusier’s The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Poulduwill occupy a vital position in the room dedicated to Post-Impressionism,” added Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education. “This work perfectly illustrates the essential nature of Gauguin’s influence on an entire generation of avant-garde painters, while also demonstrating how Sérusier transcended his mentor in conveying the poetic and the metaphysical through his visionary presentation of color and form. We are delighted to add such an important painting to the museum’s collection.”
Dr. Cordier will present a virtual lecture, “Painting Alongside Gauguin: A Masterpiece of the Pont-Aven School by Paul Sérusier” on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. EST. The online event, hosted on Zoom, is free to attend. Participants can register to access the lecture at www.VMFA.museum. Sérusier’s painting The Three-Pond Cottage at Le Pouldu is currently on view in VMFA’s Atrium. Other works by the artist can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Plow Through Your Holiday Shopping at Holiday Villages a Virtual Market
Let’s spread some holiday cheer and support Richmond’s small business and artist community at a new VIRTUAL Holiday Villages!
- Live Music
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- And MORE!⠀Grab your family, friends, loved ones, and curl up on the sofa to shop and hang with us!⠀Finish all your holiday shopping the first weekend of December!⠀You don’t want to miss this!⠀Presented by the Richmond Night Market, in partnership with The City of Richmond, Brok Productions, and The Economic Development Authority of Richmond.⠀Let’s spread some holiday cheer and support Richmond’s small business and artist community at our new VIRTUAL Holiday Villages!⠀HELP US SPREAD THE WORD- Share this post with your followers and family and friends!
New VMFA exhibition portrays the majestic beauty of Virginia’s Natural Bridge
The exhibition, free to visitors, will be on view at VMFA from February 6 to August 1, 2021.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced its upcoming exhibition, Virginia Arcadia: The Natural Bridge in American Art, an exploration of the artistic portrayal of this spectacular and seemingly miraculous natural landmark. The exhibition, free to visitors, will be on view at VMFA from February 6 to August 1, 2021.
The majesty of the Shenandoah Valley’s Natural Bridge, a 400-year-old geological formation, has inspired artists, writers and explorers over the centuries. It has served as an ethereal example of the American landscape, an icon of natural history and a witness to human civilization. One of the most depicted sites in American 19th-century landscape painting, this formation captured the imaginations of artists like Frederic Church, David Johnson, Edward Hicks and Caleb Boyle, as well as many decorative artists.
“VMFA is pleased to recognize Virginia’s very own natural landmark through this exhibition,” said VMFA Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “We hope Virginia Arcadia inspires appreciation for and interest in rediscovering the wonderful natural world here in our state, and also recognizing that the environment is a precious source of inspiration.”
“Consider a time when our very landscape sparked wonder and inspired myth,” said the exhibition’s curator, Dr. Christopher C. Oliver, VMFA’s Assistant Curator of American Art. “Artists were moved to not only capture its picturesque splendor and breathtaking sense of place, but also all that the Natural Bridge represented and idealized — the sublime divinity of the natural world, the excitement of discovery, the harmony between nature and civilization and the abundance of pastoral beauty.” The Natural Bridge is also historically relevant to western expansion, slavery, natural history, tourism and ecological conservation.
Virginia Arcadia examines the Natural Bridge through more than 60 paintings, prints, decorative art objects and photographs made between the late 1700s and the early 1900s. Highlights of the exhibition include works from VMFA’s collection including one of the earliest illustrations of the Natural Bridge, an engraving from 1787 by Baron De Turpin, a French engineer sent to document the site, one of three such engravings featured in Volume 1: Travels In North-America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782. Joshua Shaw’s oil painting Natural Bridge No. 1 (ca. 1820) captures the view from atop the arch of the bridge looking down into a nearby creek in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Several works in the exhibition are on loan from institutions across the country including the Chrysler Museum, the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, and the Yale University Art Gallery, as well as from private collections.
More information about Virginia Arcadia: The Natural Bridge in American Art can be found on the museum’s website.
Photos: Preview of Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter
November 23rd is when you can check out the lights at Lewis Ginter but last night we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek.