Paul SÉRUSIER | The fence [La barrière]

Paul SÉRUSIER
France 1863 – 1927

The fence
[La barrière]
1890
oil on canvas
canvas 50.7 (h) x 62.3 (w) cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris , Gift of Henriette Boutaric 1981
© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

A dirt road bordered by tall conifers passes through a lush country landscape outside the village of Le Pouldu in Brittany. The curve of the road and fence encourages our eyes to move from left to right across the painting. Dark, curvaceous trees are silhouetted against a cloudy sky. Luxurious green grass suggests a region of high rainfall.

This unpopulated landscape is created using geometric sections of strong colour. A section of fence and a strange yellow bush provide visual interest in the foreground. Golden highlights can be seen on top of a triangular shape behind the white fence and in a soft area of foliage behind the conifers on the left.

In contrast, the adjacent painting, The flowery fence, Le Pouldu depicts a more intimate view of the village including two women conversing across a rustic fence. Decorative tree trunks are spaced across the mid-ground of the composition and a blossoming bush signals seasonal change.

In 1888, Paul Serusier went to Brittany to paint scenes of peasant life. He met Paul Gauguin who was living in Pont-Aven at the time. Gauguin had a significant impact on the younger artist. He suggested Serusier use strong outlines and bold colours in the style of Japanese prints.

The two artists painted together in the village of Le Pouldu on the Brittany coast. Serusier went on to play a pivotal role in the development of a group of young artists called the Nabis.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2009
From audio tour Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and beyond Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay