Sérusier’s ‘The Talisman’, a Prophecy of Colour



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Sérusier’s ‘The Talisman’, a Prophecy of Colour

29 January - 28 April 2019

This open-air study produced by Sérusier in Pont-Aven in 1888 “under the direction of Gauguin” as evidenced by the handwritten inscription on the back of the panel, was instantly raised to iconic status. As soon as the artists presented this ‘synthetic’ landscape with its pure colours and simplified forms to the Nabis on his return to the Académie Jullian, they baptised it Thee Talismanand hung it on the wall of their meeting place, The Temple, where it is conserved as a ‘relic’.

On Sérusier’s death in 1927, The Talisman joined the collection of Maurice Denis, who contributed to its status as a founding work by recounting its creation to the journal Occident in 1903: How do you see this tree? said Gauguin at the Bois d’Amour: Is it really green? Use green, then, the most beautiful green on your palette. And that shadow, rather blue? Don't be afraid to paint it as blue as possible.” Thus was introduced to us for the first time, in a paradoxical and unforgettable form, the fertile concept of a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order”.

Sérusier’s study was thus placed at the centre of a sort of legend that governs its interpretation: a ‘painting lesson’ given by Paul Gauguin that inspired in the young painter a manifesto of an art that replaced a mimetic approach with the search for a ‘coloured equivalent’. Posterity was to see - in retrospect – in this painting the manifesto of a pure painting, autonomous and abstract.

Image on top:

Paul Sérusier (1864-1927)The Talisman, the Aven River at the Bois d'AmourOctober 1888Oil on woodH. 27; W. 21 cmParis, Musée d'OrsayAcquired with the participation of M.Philipe Meyer, through the intermediary of the Fondation Lutèce, 1985© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski


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