School of Pont Aven


In spring 1886, Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard met in Pont-Aven. They were soon joined at the pension Gloannec by other French artists such as Paul Sérusier and Charles Laval, and also Americans, British and Polish namely Władysław Ślewiński. When they were not in Pont-Aven, they were to be found in Pouldu, located about twenty kilometers away. Painters were fleeing the civilization of Paris to seek the sense of archaism Brittany provided.

Their goal was to develop a new approach to painting, hence Pont-Aven appeared to offer the ideal setting. Paul Gauguin once confided : “When my clogs resound on the granite floor, I hear the mute, matt and powerful sound that I seek in painting. ” This Finistère community revealed a unique identity, the result of its port activity, open to the outside world, the simple faith of its people and the work in the fields which were to become the favorite primitive pictorial motifs sought by painters, the Aven river with its resident geese, the forests and woods, its railroad, churches and believers, markets, festivals and costumes. All outdoor activity was privileged.

However, painting was not intended to faithfully represent nature, rather to embody the painter’s innermost feelings. In other words, the artist synthetized and symbolized his ideas, his thoughts, his feelings through his art. The terms “synthetism” and “symbolism” featured in the exhibition « Paintings by the Impressionist and Synthetist Group » at Café Volpini in Paris in 1889. More specifically, this new form of painting was based on a simplification of form and color. Details were absent and perspectives simple, where large flat areas of color were encircled by strong black lines. The result seemed to oscillate between simplicity and imagination. As for influences, they were drawn as much from the tradition of Japanese prints, as from medieval stained glass. “Cloisonnisme” is another term used. The most representative canvas of this period is “The Vision after the Sermon” by Paul Gauguin painted in 1888.

Over a century after the formation of the Pont-Aven school, artists such as André Even and Bruno Tremohars who continue to perpetuate and renew this movement, are exhibited today at Gallery Izart.