In the 1850s Pont Aven was a pretty little town of mills and a tiny port in Brittany. Painters began to discover it with the establishment of railways, and an artist's colony was established there that eventually drew Paul Gauguin for the first of many stays.
It was the encounter between Gauguin and Emile Bernard, the two most innovative of these many artists, that gave birth to what has become called the Pont-Aven School. This extended to the early 20th century, employing bold, pure color and Symbolist subjects.
Paul Gauguin, "Self-Portrait with Portrait of Bernard, "Les Misérables"
Serusier, "The Talisman"
This course is an opportunity to discover the charming little town of Pont Aven and its place in art history, while leaving time to sketch its landscapes.
The morning is devoted to looking for the traces of Gauguin and his disciples: a walking tour takes us along the central street of the town to the itinerary along the river where these artists drew and painted, to the celebrated "Bois d'Amour". It was here that Paul Sérusier painted "The Talisman", an oil on wood he painted under Gauguin's directions:
"How do you see these trees? They are yellow. Well then, put some yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put some vermillion".
After sketching, we will break for lunch in an authentic Breton crêperie. This will give us an opportunity to share our drawings over galettes and crêpes washed down with cider. In the afternoon, we will visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pont Aven with its paintings and drawings presenting the Pont Aven School and its artists.
Scottish journalist George Millar, author of the 1963 "Oyster River", recounts his summer sailing with his wife Isabel around the Golfe du Morbihan in Brittany, and especially their stopover in Pont-Aven.
"...Pont-Aven, using the tide, is an easy dinghy-and-outboard run, five kilometres, upstream. Gauguin's Pont-Aven canvases give a fair idea of the beauty of the trip. They romanticize not at all...the sleepy old town appears with its quiet quays and the half-choked weirs above which the Aven is a rushing burn sluicing over rocks, boiling in the pools...
...Mme Mydorge's house was obscurely marked Café-Dégustation...she was so happy that we made her house our base in Pont-Aven...
Utterly different was the bread-and-butter café in the centre of town...The farmers frequented that café for serious drinking and market conversation...their thick fingers expert around the waists of wineglasses. Gauguin must have appreciated their fathers.
Mme Mydorge disapproved of 'that painter fellow'. She was piqued that people turned up in Pont-Aven because of him, as we had done. 'M. Gauguin's antecedents are said to have been respectable,' she said. 'And although he was not always sober I do not remember him hatless out of doors..."
The remainder of the day will be devoted to sketching, with time programmed for visiting the shops to bring home local specialities: butter biscuits, salty butter caramels or chocolates made with a pinch of Breton sea salt.
Price: €180 (all taxes included)
Course materials included
Lunch and pub drinks not included