2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 12:28
Seraphine Louis (1864-1942) was a self-taught French artist known for her large-format, naïve floral paintings, as seen in her Tree of Paradise (1928). She did not receive formal art education and developed a distinctive style outside of established artistic traditions.
Biography of Serafina Louis
The artist was born in 1864 in a poor peasant community in Picardy, France. Beginning in 1881, Serafina Louis spent 20 years as a sister in a convent in northern France. She began painting in 1903, after moving to Senlis, taking a job as an au pair. She first decorated household items and then moved her decorative floral schemes onto small wooden or cardboard panels. In 1921, her paintings caught the attention of Wilhelm Uhde, the German collector who discovered Picasso and Henri Rousseau. Houdet included Serafina in his important exhibition "Artists of the Sacred Heart" in 1928, together with André Bauhan, Camille Bombois, Henri Rousseau and Louis Vivin.
Serafina over the years plunged into visions, fantasies and madness. In 1932, after a decline in interest in her work, the artist suffered a mental breakdown and was placed in a psychiatric institution. Louis died there 10 years later, completely destitute, leaving her rich experience to the art world, embodied in the paintings "Garden of the Good Lord".
Despite the fact that Louis stopped painting, her work was shown in the exhibition "Popular Masters of the Modern" organized by the Museum of Grenoble in 1937, which opened in Paris and then visited Zurich and London. Alfred Barr adapted the Exhibition for Folk Painters (1938) at the MoMA in New York (Museum of Modern Art).
From the memoirs of Wilhelm Uhde
Tired of the hustle and bustle of Parisian life, of the brilliant exhibition he had just dedicated to Henri Rousseau, in 1912 Wilhelm Uhde rented a small apartment in Senlis for a weekend getaway. One evening, while dining at his neighbors' house, Uhde noticed a small painting of apples in the corner of the living room. He was inspired by her beauty and skill, and asked the owners who painted it. He was told that this was a housekeeper, and that they wanted to buy the painting from her themselves, but they could give it to Ude for 8 francs.
The next day, when Serafina arrived at Ude's house to work, she noticed that her painting was on a chair. Not at all surprised, she laughed. Oudet asked if Louis had any more paintings.
Serafina hurried home to the streetPuit-Tifan, rushing up the wretched stairs to the attic, grabbed some canvases and hurried back. Ude was delighted. The paintings were as beautiful as the one he had already seen. In them, he discerned what Kandinsky called "internal necessity," an impulse emanating from Serafina's innermost being, unsophisticated, unsullied, simple. Painted with a rare freedom, covered with a kind of varnish, with the smallest details, the compositions of Serafina Louis, consisting of fruits, flowers and leaves, gave off the illusions of the Middle Ages.
Inspired by her religious beliefs, Louis painted ecstatic visions of fruits, flowers, and foliage on plain or horizontally divided color fields, done in oil or ripoline, a household enamel paint. The compositions are dotted with shiny, gem-like plants that bloom outward from tree trunks or vases. In later works, figure and earth merge into a dense interweaving, uniting the entire canvas in a pulsating, sinuous rhythm.
Inspired by nature, the fields and forests she roamed in as a child, 100 kilometers north of Paris, Seraphine Louis' art has something supernatural about it. Louis' paintings, she said, were a response to the divine, to the orders of the Virgin Mary.
While most of the flowers depicted in Louie's work are figurative hybrids, she often painted common daisies. In "Daisies" (pictured), Serafina Louie depicts white flowers in swirls of thin strokes radiating outwards.from luminous spherical centers. A row of stylized leaves frame flowers in a mysterious dark field.
The "Leaves" painting has a more specific sense of space, even when the swarming mass of leaves blends distinctly into the yellow background. As with many of her later works, tiny strokes and dots of paint cluster decoratively on the surface, giving the painting an extraordinary radiance.
Bertrand Lorkin, curator of the Musée Mayol, in his introduction to the exhibition "Serafine Louis de Senlis" at the Musée Mayol in Paris, which ran from October 1, 2008 to May 18, 2009, spoke of the artist:
Serafina was an artist consumed by an unstoppable desire to create "that famous inner necessity" that Kandinsky spoke of.
Paintings by Serafina Louis are exhibited in the museums of Maillol in Paris, the art of Saint-Lis and Nice and the modern art of the metropolis of Lille in Villeneuve-d'Ascq.
A film about an artist
In 2009, the French biopic Serafina, directed by Martin Provost, won 7 César awards, including Best Film and Best Actress for Yolanda Moreau, who played the title role. The film explored the relationship between Serafina Louis and Wilhelm Uhde from their first meeting in 1912 until Serafina's death.
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