Sérusier devoted 39 years of his work to Brittany, which he discovered with Gauguin in 1888 while he was still a student at the Académie Julian in Paris.

From 1891 onwards, he spent most of his time in Finistère and had his house built in 1906 in the village of Chateauneuf-du-Faou. He liked this farming town near Pont Aven because of the low amount of tourism and its pleasant setting amidst rolling hills. This voluntary isolation was interrupted by short stays in Paris every winter and by visits from painter friends in summer, such as Maurice Denis who spent his holidays nearby in Perros-Guirec.

Knitter with a pink stocking is a classic example of Sérusier’s later works when he distanced himself from reality in Brittany and took inspiration from mediaeval tapestries. In his old age the painter, affected by alcoholism, the illness of his wife and the poor sales of his paintings seemed to find refuge in more timeless painting which was freer of the rules of composition based on the golden ratio, “rhythm and the divine proportion”, which he had followed until then. Although clearly a woman from Brittany due to certain aspects of her clothing, but seeming to emerge from a far distant past, the Knitter in this painting and the majority of the young girls engaged in needlework whom Sérusier depicted at the end of his life are reminiscent of the Fates of Antiquity spinning the thread of life.

The painter’s technique had developed since his beginnings in the Nabis group, of which he was the theoretician. Abandoning the use of varnish, he retained the matt appearance of the colours which were applied onto a medium of rough, coarse canvas, recalling the texture of Italian frescoes and the murals of Puvis de Chavannes. The curved contours of the landscape in the Knitter seem to envelop the young girl in a dark range of greens, interspersed with a few pink accents, and are evocative of the hills of Chateauneuf-du-Faou and an image of benevolent nature.

I. C.


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