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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, 24 May 2010: Seraphine de Senlis

Seraphine de Senlis was the topic of the movie, Seraphine (2009) that my artist friend, Rhoda and I watched on Saturday evening. I had no previous knowledge of this French painter of Na├»ve Art and I found her creations and the story of her life moving. Seraphine was born in 1834 in Arsy, France. Orphaned at seven, she spent her childhood in a convent; her early years as a shepherdess and the rest of her life as a household drudge. But Seraphine was driven by her desire to paint – through the nights in the shabby bedsit; through the shelling of her village during WWI; when encouraged by the German art critic, Wilhelm Uhde; and when forgotten and unappreciated in the post-war years until Uhde found her once again. Sadly, her childlike spending of her patron’s money alarmed his sense of caution during the Great Crash and eventually insanity ended her virtually hidden career. She died alone and friendless in a mental asylum in 1934 (some put the date at 1942). She never knew that some of her paintings, brilliant images of leaves, flowers and feathers which seem to swirl and quiver, hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In the movie Yolande Moreau does a wonderful portrayal of the painter – scrubbing floors, emptying chamber pots and washing linen in the stream. Gazing with affectionate worship at the image of the Virgin Mary, mesmerised by the sunlight dancing on leaves or the image of her own work worn hand submerged in a pail of water. Making her own paints of glowing colours, grinding her mixtures with mortar and pestle from concoctions of mud from river beds, wild flowers from the hedgerows, a vial of blood from the butcher’s bowl and molten wax from the votive candles at Mary’s shrine in the village church.


‘She was obsessed,’ whispered Rhoda to me in the dim light of the cinema. ‘Well, so are you when you get going!’ I answered back. In the seat next to me, a young girl sat weeping. It was that kind of movie. That kind of life – Seraphine de Senlis.

8 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

I've never heard of this painter but am intrigued -- will have to learn more and see the film!

Anonymous said...

Just saw Seraphine de Senlis, quite touching, especially by her late life how she's locked up in a mental hospital...

Anonymous said...

I watched Seraphine last night, googled her and somehow found my way to your blog. Ditto to all sentiments. I was so touched. The endless years spent locked up... The fierceness of her pictures. Thanks for your wonderful space.

Anonymous said...

I just watched Seraphine last night too. I am so sad and touched by her life. She was a wonderful artist. She was ahead of her time. God Bless her Soul :)

Belkiss Obadia

Stephen and Janet Bly said...

We just watched the movie Seraphine. Powerful, moving. Nicely done post on her.
Stephen & Janet Bly
http://BlyBooks.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

just watched this amazing movie of seraphine I am moved beyond words her life was a powerful expression of unstoppable creation her work is astounding, this film has made my week.Thanks for making this space possible

Anonymous said...

This movie was heartbreaking. I have never heard of this artist or her paintings. though her life was sad, she saw the beauty in nature many of us rarely or never see.

Anonymous said...

Like so many here, my husband and I just had the good fortune to watch this wonderful movie. Naturally, I had to google her today. What a treasure she was and her paintings are so unique and evocative. Thank you for your blog about her.