© Musée des Beaux-arts de Quimper

In the footsteps of painters in Brittany

7 sites to discover through their eyes

In the footsteps of painters in Brittany

The greatest names in the history of 19th and 20th-century art have been seduced by Brittany, such as Gauguin in Pont-Aven, Monet in Belle-île, Maurice Denis in Ploumanac’h, etc. At the time difficult to access, it conveyed the perfume of adventure and authenticity. The painters loved its Celtic past, its legends, its countless chapels and crosses. Their brush strokes reveal lively, festive and colourful scenes of markets, weddings, religious pardons, the fishing ports and sea bathing. Explore this subject with walks and museum tours.

From Emile Bernard to Picasso, the quintessential seaside resort

Dinard and the surrounding area

The beaches of Dinard became famous in the middle of the 19th century. A chic and wealthy clientèle built luxurious villas and delighted in the opening of a golf course and a casino. Eugène Isabey painted Saint-Enogat beach. Emile Bernard, Paul Signac and Henri Rivière revealed the Saint-Briac coast. In summer 1922, Picasso settled in Villa Beauregard with his family. In around 50 paintings, such as “Family at the seaside” or “Two women running on the beach”, he conveyed the exhilaration of a sunny summer by the sea.


Maurice Denis and the Pink Granite Coast

Ploumanac’h / Perros-Guirec

The incredible beauty of these formations of pink rocks plunging into the sea seduced the imagination of the painters. Mathurin Méheut immortalised the “ram’s head”, Henri Rivière sketched the port and Henri Le Fauconnier put a Cubist twist on the village roofs. For Maurice Denis, it was paradise. He bought Villa Silencio at Pointe du Château in Trestrignel. With his brush strokes, regattas, bathers and family seaside scenes became the pretext for expressive and poetic paintings that demonstrated astonishing decorative inventiveness.


From Eugène Boudin to Henri Rivière, in quest of the picturesque

Camaret and the Crozon Peninsula

Lively docks, the return of the fishing boats, the orange and red sails of the sardine fishing boats, etc.: Eugène Boudin painted around 60 paintings of the spectacle of Camaret. A colony of artists gathered here. Georges Lacombe, Paul Sérusier, Maximilien Luce and others explored Pointe de Dinan, the Tas de Pois and the Marines de Morgat caves. Fascinated by these striking landscapes, they painted pictures of excellent artistic and graphic quality. At the turn of the 20th century, Henri Rivière stayed in Morgat, which had become a seaside resort, every year. He accomplished many water colours here.

To do

  • Stroll around Camaret port and keep going as far as the picturesque Rocamadour chapel, surrounded by water.
  • Visit the Vauban tower a UNESCO World Heritage building.
  • Enjoy the vintage charm of the Saint-Thomas district, the “artists’ district”, which teems with studios and art galleries.
  • Hop on one of the Sirène boats to discover Morgat and its sea caves.
  • Lose your way in the rooms of the Brest Fine Arts Museum boasting a rich collection of sea views and paintings by the Pont-Aven school, the Nabi movement and Symbolism

Gauguin and the artistic revolution of the Pont-Aven school

Pont-Aven

Discovered by American painters, the little city tucked on both sides of a bridge on the Aven estuary became incredibly popular following the painters of the Pont-Aven school. The river bed cluttered with rocks, the countless mills, the thatched houses, the chapels, the lively markets, the picturesque costumes and the quality of the light were inexhaustible subjects of inspiration. The population was welcoming and a large colony of artists formed here. But fame came from the development of Synthetism, a major artistic current driven by Gauguin, Paul Sérusier and Emile Bernard. Charles Filiger, Maxime Maufra and Henry Moret also contributed.

To do

  • Discover the Fine Arts Museum located on the site of the former Pension Gloanec
  • Discover the collections in an original way thanks to the guided tour proposed by the tourist office
  • Follow the Bois d’amour circuit and admire the painting of Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin in Trémalo chapel
  • Loiter in the 60 or so galleries in town
  • Keep going to the hamlet of Pouldu in Clohars-Carnoët and visit the maison-musée, a reconstitution of the beach-side bar where Gauguin boarded.

Paul Sérusier, an encounter with primitive nature

Huelgoat  / Châteauneuf-du-Faou / Le Faouët

After his stay in Pont-Aven, Paul Sérusier wanted to find a primitive and preserved side of Brittany. In the Monts d’Arrée, Huelgoat, with its rocky formations and its legends, provided the matter for some unique [and absorbing] paintings, imprinted with archaic spirituality: “The Incantation, or The Holy Wood”, “Solitude”. In 1893, he settled in Châteauneuf-du-Faou, a little town overlooking the meanders of the Aulne, which inspired him until his death. A little further south, Le Faouët, served by train from the start of the 20th century, became the 3rd artistic colony in Brittany. Sainte-Barbe chapel, a 15th-century gem on an exceptional site, captivated Mathurin Méheut and Ernest Guérin. Yvonne-Jean-Haffen made a remarkable triptych about its pardon.

To do

 

Huelgoat

Châteauneuf-du-Faou 

Le Faouët

  • Follow the Chapel circuit and stop under the large slate roof of the 16th-century covered market
  • Continue with a visit of the museum which has a permanent collection dedicated to the artists who stayed in the region

 


Monet, charmed by the ever changing sky

Belle-île

Monet made Belle-Ile famous. In 1886, residing in the little fishing hamlet of Kervilahouen, he was close to Aiguilles de Port-Coton, Port Goulphar and Domois. Captivated by the changing light and the transience of the sea conditions, he painted the same landscape many times at different moments; it was the foundation of a serial approach that finished with the famous Rouen Cathedral series. The Australian John-Peter Russell borrowed a freedom of touch from the master of impressionism, which is truly illustrated in “Red Sail, Port Goulphar”. Matisse returned from the island with a passion for colour, paving the way for Fauvism. Later, in the 1950s, Vasarely affirmed geometric abstraction here.

To do

 

 


Méheut and Creston, in the land of white gold

Batz-sur-Mer and the Guérande peninsula

Balzac saw Guérande as a foretaste of the Orient, “an African desert bordered by the ocean”. The spectacle of the salt marsh workers clothed in white, the geometric design of the salt marshes and the particular light it gives off inspired many painters. René-Yves Creston made an inventory of the costumes in the 1950s/60s. In a series of on-the-spot drawings with gouache or casein, Mathurin Méheut made a veritable report. Like an ethnographer, he captured the precision of a movement, the harvest of salt, the architecture of the salt marsh workers’ villages,  etc. In Batz, the romantic ruins of Murier chapel and the monumental tower of Saint-Guénolé church caught the attention of many passing artists.

To do

  • Go to the salt marsh museum in Batz to learn about the salt economy and admire an interesting graphic art collection
  • Discover the marshes in a different light with themed tours
  • Climb to the top of Saint-Guénolé tower to enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the peninsula

The painters of Brittany

in the Breton museums

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