More on the Post-Impressionists

November 22, 2020 at 9:10 pm (Art, France, Mystery fiction)

[Click here for the previous post on this subject.]

Roderic O’Conor was an Irish artists who lived and worked with the Pont Aven painters, for a time.

Yellow Landscape 1892, by Roderic O’Conor

 

Moonlit Lndscape, Roderic O’Conor

On the Irish Times site, there’s an excellent piece on O’Conor. Be sure to watch the video; there’s a presentation by an exceptionally eloquent curator.
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  Our instructor recommended to us a mystery novel set in Brittany. Death in Brittany, translated and published here in 2014,  features Commissaire Georges Dupin. Judging by  the name, c’est un hommage, I assume, to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Parisian armchair sleuth. But this Dupin spends very little time sitting around waxing intellectual. Instead, he traverses the length and breadth of his adopted  home, trying to solve first one murder, then another.

Being as he’s a newcomer – only lived in Brittany for three years, specifically resident in Concarneau – he is still in the process of getting to know the place, and to understand it:

Inhale in Concarneau and you tasted salt, iodine, seaweed, mussels in every breath, like a distillation of the entire endless expanse of the Atlantic, brightness  and light. In Pont Aven it was the river, moist, rich earth, hay, trees, woods, the valley and shadows, melancholy fog-the countryside.

And there’s more:

The landscape became more and more enchanting as the narrow little streets of Pont-Aven gave way to thick woodland. The trees were dripping with mistletoe and ivy, overgrown and moss-covered. some of the trees here had entwined as they grew, forming a log dark green tunnel. now and then the Aven shimmered between the trees on the left hand side as though it were electrically charged, a pale silver color. The last of the day’s light bathed everything in its glow, lending the landscape even more of a fairytale atmosphere.

As for the painters of more than a century ago – their traces are still very much present. Dupin enters a room in the main floor of a hotel that’s central to his investigation and at once  beholds stunning collection:

There were twenty-five of these by his estimation, maybe thirty, by artists from the famous artists’ colony such as Paul Serusier, Laval, Emile Bernard, Armand Seguin, Jacob Meyer de Haan and of course Gauguin….

The Talisman, an 1888 work by Paul Serusier, so called because it attained an iconic status for Les Nabis. They thought of it as the jumping off point for their artistic movement.

The author of Death in Brittany writes under the pseudonym. Jean-Luc Bannalec is German but spends much of his time in Brittany. Monsieur Bannalec is the holder of a doctorate from l’Université Johann Wolfgang Goethe de Francfort-sur-le-Main. He has worked as an editor and journalist. There’s a Wikipedia entry for him in French under his real name, Jorg Bong.

The Georges Dupin novels currently number five. I look forward to reading the next one.

Breton Girls Dancing, by Paul Gauguin

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Although Van Gogh is classified as a Post-Impressionist, he did not go to Brittany to paint. He famously went to the south of France instead, hoping to found an artists’ colony there. Gauguin joined him there for two months. It did not go well.

There’s an interesting book on this failed experiment: 

Alas, poor Van Gogh; very little went well in his short, sad life. I read a biography of him recently that was excellent, very engrossing, but…”If you have tears, prepare to shed them now….

Many of us wish that Van Gogh could somehow come to know how much his art is loved and valued in the present era. There’s an episode of the long running British series Doctor Who that made  that happen. I for one am very grateful to them:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. kdwisni1 said,

    I’m so glad you reviewed Death in Brittany. I was introduced to this series 2 years ago during a Road Scholar tour of Brittany. Its not as charming as Martin Walker’s books set in the Dordogne, but that is as it should be. The two regions are chalk and cheese, each wondrous in its own right.

  2. Christophe said,

    That clip with time-traveling Van Gogh visiting the Musee du Quai d’Orsay is very moving.

    Thanks also for discussing that Bannalec book. The Wikipedia article you linked to notes that these works are extremely popular in Germany and France, with airings of the TV adaptations being viewed by 15% of the population in each country, and having generated a mini-industry of literary tourism to the region. Impressive!

  3. Joanne said,

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I plan to take a look at your recommendations. But first, I put Death in Brittany on hold. Thank you for the beautiful descriptive passages. I look forward to reading this book!

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