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.
InLight Coming to Low Line in 2021
1708 Gallery’s 14th annual InLight will take place November 12-13, 2021 at Great Shiplock Park, Chapel Island, and nearby sites on the Low Line in Richmond.
1708 Gallery’s 14th annual InLight will take place November 12-13, 2021 at Great Shiplock Park, Chapel Island, and nearby sites on the Low Line in Richmond. InLight is 1708’s annual public exhibition of contemporary art. InLight takes place at night and each year is in a different location in Richmond. InLight features multimedia, sculpture, installation, performance, community-based works, and virtual projects that utilize light-based platforms (projections, lighting design, and more) to be experienced in the dark. Past sites include Chimborazo Park, the downtown Arts District, and the sculpture garden and grounds of the VMFA.
1708 invites regional, national, and international artists working in all media and disciplines to submit entries for InLight 2021. Great Shiplock Park is located at a former shiplock constructed as part of the James River and Kanawha Canal system. Artists are invited to propose projects that engage with and expand upon the multiple themes and histories that can be found at these sites such as: trade and labor of then-enslaved peoples of African and Indigenous descent during and following the industrial revolution; the environmental impact—especially concerning water resources—of commerce and infrastructure; and the cultivation of spaces for alternative forms of historical preservation.
The curatorial team is especially interested in proposals that address ideas around movement in air, land, and water; flows of resources; and the redistribution of power within these systems; and future-thinking projects that reflect but are not bound by the histories surrounding Great Shiplock Park to imagine the site’s specificity and potential beyond its past and present. Artists, Collectives, and Community Organizations are encouraged to apply.
For more details and to submit an entry, please visit 1708INLIGHT.ORG.DEADLINE TO APPLY: Midnight (EST), Thursday, July 15, 2021.
1708 will host two virtual meetings via Zoom to provide an opportunity for potential applicants to ask direct questions about the application and selection process for InLight 2021. The meetings will be Tuesday, June 22nd at 6:00 pm and Wednesday, June 23rd at 6:00 pm. Please register in advance to attend.
The Broadberry is F***ing Back or so I Read
Good news for lovers of live music.
Richmond Folk Festival and 2nd Street Festival Will Return
Short on details but the good news is the best event in Richmond will be back.
I was thrilled to see this in my inbox this morning.
Two of Richmond’s largest and most beloved events will return this fall, live and in person.
Venture Richmond Events plans to produce both the 2nd Street Festival and the Richmond Folk Festival as live events, while also following state and federal guidelines for outdoor gatherings.
The 2nd Street Festival, in partnership with the City of Richmond, will take place October 2-3, 2021, in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood.
The Richmond Folk Festival, in partnership with the National Council for Traditional Arts and the City of Richmond, will take place October 8-10, 2021, along Downtown Richmond’s riverfront.
“We look forward to getting back to in-person festivals with the 33rd year of the 2nd Street Festival and the 17th year of the Richmond Folk Festival,” said Stephen Lecky, director of events. “Now more than ever we know how important it is for us to come together safely in a shared celebration of culture and experiences, whether they are the rich traditions of the historic Jackson Ward community, or those from around the nation and the world presented on Downtown’s riverfront. Certainly, the joy we receive from producing these two festivals is immeasurable and we will do so with everyone’s wellbeing as our utmost priority.”
More information will follow this summer as we continue to stay informed and aware of CDC and state guidelines for Covid-19 protocol at events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and guidelines is crucial.
The 2nd Street Festival is sponsored in part by: Dominion Energy, Brown Distributing, Community Foundation, Virginia Union University, and the City of Richmond.
The Richmond Folk Festival is sponsored in part by: Dominion Energy, CoStar Group, Community Foundation, WestRock, CarMax, City of Richmond, Brown Distributing, National Council for Traditional Arts, and the Children’s Museum.