The "Talisman" of Serusier, A Prophecy of Color

29 January–28 April 2019

Exhibition Overview


Paul Sérusier, Le Talisman, l'Aven au Bois d'Amour [Talisman, River through the Forest of Love], Octobre 1888.

The small open-air study conducted by Sérusier in Pont-Aven in 1888, "under the direction of Gauguin" as indicated by the handwritten inscription on the reverse side of the panel, was immediately elevated to the rank of icon. As soon as the artist, back to the Jullian Academy, presents to the Nabis this "synthetic" landscape with pure colors and simplified forms, they call him The Talisman and hang it on the wall of their meeting place, Le Temple, where it is kept as a "relic".

At the death of Sérusier, in 1927, Le Talismanjoined the collection of Maurice Denis, who had helped to make a founding work by delivering the story of his creation to the magazine Occident in 1903: "How do you see this tree, said Gauguin in front of a corner of Bois d'Amour: it is green, so put green, the most beautiful green in your palette, and this shade, rather blue, do not be afraid to paint it as blue as possible ". Thus was presented for the first time, in an unforgettable paradoxical form, the fertile concept of "flat surface covered with colors in a certain order assembled".

Serusier's study has thus been placed at the center of a sort of myth of origin that defines its interpretation: a "painting lesson" delivered by Paul Gauguin inspiring the young painter to manifest an art that replaces a mimetic approach by looking for a "colored equivalent". It is on the basis of this presentation that posterity will see in this painting the announcement of a new conception of painting: pure, autonomous and abstract.

(Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski.)

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