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Artists Paul Sérusier
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Paul Sérusier

French Painter

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

Born: November 9, 1864 - Paris, France

Died: October 7, 1927 - Morlaix, France

Paul Sérusier Timeline

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

"Art is a means of communication between souls."

Paul Sérusier Signature

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.

Most Important Art

Paul Sérusier Famous 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:

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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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino
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