Cloisonnism is a style of post-Impressionist painting with bold and flat forms separated by dark contours. The term was coined by critic Édouard Dujardin on the occasion of the Salon des Indépendants, in March 1888. Artists Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier, and others started painting in this style in the late 19th century. The name evokes the technique of cloisonné, where wires (cloisons or "compartments") are soldered to the body of the piece, filled with powdered glass, and then fired. Many of the same painters also described their works as Synthetism, a closely related movement.
I have added three paintings that illustrate the use of ‘Cloisonnism’. There are two ways in which the outline of objects are conveyed. The first is by actually drawing an outline around the contours of those objects. The second is by leaving the dark ground visible around the objects when painting the shapes or forms.
In the figure painting by Emile Bernard the ‘drawn’ lines are clearly visible and this is true of the second work a still life by Paul Gauguin.
The Emile Bernard painting looks incredibly modern look closely at the surface where the dark ground primary layer appears as a ‘drawn line’ as the colour has been applied to the shape of the objects and omitted from edges of those shapes. This both emphasises the contours of the objects and focuses our attention on abstract shapes and colour.
We continued our Cloisonnism project across all our groups this week and we talked about one of the leaders of the Pont Aven group Emile Bernard.
Émile Henri Bernard (28 April 1868 – 16 April 1941) was a French Post-Impressionistpainter and writer, who had artistic friendships with Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Eugène Boch, and at a later time, Paul Cézanne. Most of his notable work was accomplished at a young age, in the years 1886 through 1897. He is also associated with Cloisonnism and Synthetism, two late 19th-century art movements. Less known is Bernard's literary work, comprising plays, poetry, and art criticism as well as art historical statements that contain first-hand information on the crucial period of modern art to which Bernard had contributed.
His paintings are some of the most original and creative of all those artists belonging to the school. I attach two of my favourites painted towards the end of the 19thC. Look at how colour is used in the still life painting, and how the complementary colours have been used - namely red pink / green turquoise and blue / orange. The landscape painting also uses subtle compositional devices that we have discussed before to develop his composition. We discussed last week that Cezanne influenced the work of the Pont - Aven painters and this is clearly the case in Bernard’s pictures.
This week we are looking in more detail at the work of the Pont - Aven School and the group of artists with which it’s associated.
Pont-Aven School (French: École de Pont-Aven, Breton: Skol Pont Aven) encompasses works of art influenced by the Breton town of Pont-Aven and its surroundings. Originally the term applied to works created in the artists' colony at Pont-Aven, which started to emerge in the 1850s and lasted until the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the artists were inspired by the works of Paul Gauguin, who spent extended periods in the area in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Their work is frequently characterised by the bold use of pure colour and their Symbolist choice of subject matter.
One of those artists was Paul Sérusier, who worked with Gauguin in Pont Aven developing ‘Cloisonnism’ and his own abstract paintings.
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." (The art story.org)
I have attached a couple of his paintings the first a very influential abstract painting ‘ The Talisman’ and the second a very inventive still life.
The first painting signposts abstraction and pre dates many works credited with influencing the move away from representative painting.
The still life was made after the ‘Talisman’ study, which makes use of bold edges and contours to flatten the space in the picture. Note also the way in which the flowers in the vase seem to merge with the curtains on the back wall - this device was used by Cezanne to integrate elements of a picture so that the space becomes ambiguous and we are left looking at shapes and colour.