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Artists Paul Sérusier

Paul Sérusier

French Painter

Movements: Post-Impressionism, Les Nabis, Symbolism, Synthetism, Cloisonnism

Born: November 9, 1864 - Paris, France

Died: October 7, 1927 - Morlaix, France

Quotes

"Beauty is the love that we devote to an object."
Paul Sérusier
"The signs that express love or beauty are the constituent elements of a work of art."
Paul Sérusier
"To decorate a surface is to emphasize the right proportions."
Paul Sérusier
"Others will give you advice on style, on feeling. Do not listen to them. There is only one style for you, yours. And, if you have your style, you will not notice it. To stylize is to abandon your style."
Paul Sérusier
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Synopsis

Born in Paris, Paul Sérusier studied at the Académie Julian, an alternative to the elite and conservative École des Beaux-Arts. During his training, he visited the artist colony established in Pont-Aven, where he met a group of Symbolists. Working closely with his friends, Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, and Édouard Vuillard, Sérusier employed bold colors and flattened forms to illustrate his thoughts on the canvas. Seeking liberation from the strictures of classical painting and the recent Impressionist movement, Sérusier was a pioneer of Post-Impressionism, eventually founding the group Les Nabis, named after the Hebrew word for "prophet."

As the leader of the Nabis, Sérusier sought to paint what he felt as well as what he saw. He also sought unity between decoration and fine art, as did the Arts and Crafts movement in England. Many of Sérusier's paintings were meant to fit in seamlessly with their surroundings, to be as aesthetically pleasing as they were intellectually stimulating. Advancing toward abstraction, Sérusier helped to usher in a new era in artistic innovation, pushing painting away from representation to focus on sensation and evocation. Beginning in 1908, his influence was broadened as an instructor at the École Ranson, founded by fellow Nabi Paul Ranson, where students were encouraged to embrace the expressive and evocative potentials of abstraction. The École Ranson was a popular training ground for modernist painters until World War II.

Key Ideas

Moving away from the concept of art as imitation of the visible world, Sérusier introduced more conceptual and evocative elements into his painting, especially in the dissolution of forms and his use of non-descriptive color. Thought was paramount to his work and he placed it above representation: if he perceived the sky to be yellow, he painted it as yellow and not blue.
Sérusier strove to synthesize three key elements within his works: the appearance of the natural world, the sensation that it gave him, and the form in which he chose to represent it. In balancing these three elements, Sérusier also focused on flattening the shapes and forms in his works. Continuing what Manet had done before him, Sérusier emphasized the two-dimensionality of painting through the use of strong lines and bright colors.
Sérusier's abstraction of forms in the pursuit of translating emotion and perception onto the canvas not only distinguished him from previous artists but also inspired others. Historians, and his contemporaries, date the beginning of the Nabi movement with Sérusier's work, The Talisman. His experimentation inspired new levels of abstraction in his paintings and those of his colleagues, contributing to the development of artists transferring their emotions onto their creations.
Sérusier encouraged greater experiments towards abstraction in an attempt to "free form and color from their traditional descriptive functions in order to express personal emotions and spiritual truths." This guiding principle of sensation through color was an astounding innovation that resonated with future generations of colorists, including Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, and Josef Albers.

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Most Important Art

Le Talisman, the Aven River at the Bois d'Amour (1888)
This work marks the beginning of Sérusier's exploration into color, sensation, and abstraction. Divorcing himself from the Impressionists' more faithful representation of what they observed, Sérusier focused instead on translating his sensations onto the canvas. Based upon his impressions of a day outside, Sérusier transformed each piece of nature into a swathe of color-filled energy, unified by vivid brushstrokes. The trees are yellow and the ground is orange, separating it from a traditional landscape. He painted what he felt, not what he saw. Gauguin encouraged him to move beyond the straightforward representation of a scene, but the artist went one step further, creating an abstracted marvel based predominantly on emotion and personal vision.

It is also the painting that marks the creation of the Nabis: this painting was supposed to be their "talisman" (or the guide and good luck charm) for future work. With this small sketch-like painting, completed on the back of a cigar box, he aimed to free his fellow artists from the artistic shackles of representation and thus allow them to pour their thoughts and emotions onto the canvas. It was enthusiastically adopted by the group as an inspirational guide to future abstraction and an emblem celebrating the prioritization of sensation over visual fidelity. Maurice Denis explained the effects of The Talisman best when he said "thus was introduced to us for the first time, in a paradoxical and unforgettable form, the fertile concept of a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order. Thus we learned that every work of art was a transposition, a passionate equivalent of a sensation received."
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Paul Sérusier Artworks in Focus:
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Paul Sérusier: Of Interest

Portrait of Paul Sérusier by Georges C. Michelet (1887)Portrait of Paul Sérusier by Georges Lacombe (1894)Lithograph of Paul Sérusier by Odilon Redon (1903)

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Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
TheArtStory: Symbolism
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin was a French Post-Impressionist artist who employed color fields and painterly strokes in his work. He is best known for his primitivist depictions of native life in Tahiti and Polynesia.
TheArtStory: Paul Gauguin
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis
Maurice Denis was a French painter and writer, recognized as an important member of the Symbolist and Les Nabis movements. A pioneering theorist who insisted on the flatness of the picture plane, Denis created brightly colored Post-Impressionist works that profoundly influenced the next generation of modern artists.
Maurice Denis
Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard
The French artist Pierre Bonnard, although dismissed as old-fashioned by some of the avant-garde in his lifetime, was esteemed by contemporary colorists like Matisse. A member of the Nabis group in his youth, his innovative paintings play with light, decorative surfaces, and Impressionist techniques.
TheArtStory: Pierre Bonnard
Édouard Vuillard
Édouard Vuillard
Édouard Vuillard
Édouard Vuillard was a French Post-Impressionist painter especially known for his interiors and domestic scenes. A member of the Les Nabis group, his works are characterized by rough areas of color, pointillist daubs and dots, and decorative patterns that spread out across background fabrics and wallpaper.
TheArtStory: Édouard Vuillard
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
TheArtStory: Post-Impressionism
Les Nabis
Les Nabis
Les Nabis
Les Nabis were a group of Post-Impressionist artists in 1890s Paris including Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, and Édouard Vuillard. They combined Impressionist brushstrokes with vivid colors, an at-times mystical or symbolic subject matter, and an interest in patterned and repeating backgrounds.
TheArtStory: Les Nabis
Arts and Crafts Movement
Arts and Crafts Movement
Arts and Crafts Movement
The Arts and Crafts Movement was an international design movement that originated in Great Britain and had a strong following in the United States. It advocated truth to materials and traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It also proposed economic and social reform and has been seen as essentially anti-industrial.
TheArtStory: Arts and Crafts Movement
Paul Ranson
Paul Ranson
Paul Ranson
Paul Ranson was a French artist and one of the founding figures of the French avant-garde group Les Nabis. Influenced by the decorative arts, his paintings feature thick outlines, bright colors, flattened dimensionality, and a variety of motifs, including landscape and portraiture.
Paul Ranson
Synthetism
Synthetism
Synthetism
Coined in 1877, Synthetism is a term used to describe a group of Post-Impressionist painters, including Paul Serusier, Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, and Louis Anquetin, who wished to break with the predominant Impressionist style of the era. Taking their name from the French verb 'synthetiser,' the Synthetist artists sought to combine objective appearances with the artist's subjective emotions, while retaining aesthetic concerns of line, color, and form. Considered an outgrowth of Symbolism, the style is characterized by vibrant colors, thick outlines, flattened or distorted perspectives, and surreal, mystical, or spiritual themes.
Synthetism
Cloisonnism
Cloisonnism
Cloisonnism
Cloisonnism is a style of Post-Impressionist painting with bold and flat forms separated by dark contours. Inspired by the ancient metalwork technique of Cloisonné, which creates vibrant color patterns by enclosing colored glass within shaped metal wires, tThe term was coinedmodified by critic Édouard Dujardin at the Salon des Indépendants in March 1888 to describe this new approach to painting. Artists Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, Paul Gauguin, Paul Serusier, and others started painting in this style in the late nineteenth century.
Cloisonnism
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