Monday, 14 July 2014

Gaugin and grandchildren

We've returned now after a lovely week in Brittany with the family - weather slightly dodgy but we played and talked lots with the grandchildren and spent time on the beach building the promised sand castles and seeking out shells and sea creatures - time with a very special quality.

We stayed in the pretty little village of Le Pouldu in South Finistère, popular at the end of the 19th century with Gaugin and his circle of artists. He stayed in the village intermittently for about 18 months from the autumn of 1889, having come there from Pont Aven in search of a simpler life and cheaper lodgings.

There is now an excellent little museum that's been set up in the house where he stayed in the village. It has been cleverly assembled on a small budget with simple furniture of the period and reproductions of his work on the walls. There was also a tape playing throughout the house (at times slightly spookily) to capture the atmosphere of the times.

The museum details Gaugin's life there - including the room where he painted looking out over the garden with its northern light. He worked in that room before he left for Tahiti in 1891 and the work he completed in Le Pouldu was intensely colourful and increasingly influenced by the folk and primitive art that was to inspire his later work.

He and the other members of the group pioneered the new Synthetism. This style emphasized two dimensional flat patterns where the purity of line, colour and form were paramount. Perspective was distorted and images were simplified.

More details and commentary on Gaugin's work can be found on The National Gallery and The Tate websites and, of course, by entering his name into Google.

This was a fascinating visit - Synthetism was a new concept for me. Somehow it hadn't figured in my brief study of art history. In the simplification of images and the emphasis of pattern, I felt a definite affinity. I will pursue the idea further.


  1. Thank you for highlighting this museum to Gauguin, I had not heard of its existence. We used to have a little copy of his painting of the madonna and child which I loved and I studied him at college for a thesis. His Tahitian works really appealed to me despite some of them being quite dark in atmosphere. I had not heard the term Synthetism either. I'm glad the weather didn't stop you enjoying beautiful Brittany.

    1. It was a fascinating little museum and I spent an hour there browsing with the help of an ipad guide (available in English, French and German). It was a most impressively well thought out display.

  2. Sounds and looks like you had a wonderful trip to Brittany and the the Gauguin museum.

    1. It was lovely indeed - both the grandchildren and Gaugin, though I didn't mix the two as Grandchildren are still too youn ... but there's a thought for the future!


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