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Cuno Amiet and the artist Mecca in Pont-Aven

Increasingly dissatisfied with conventional academy teaching in Paris, Cuno Amiet moved to Pont-Aven, a small Breton fishing village, in 1892. Through acquaintanceships with other artists who also stayed in the village, Amiet soon found a new style of drawing and painting, characterized by clear lines, two-dimensional forms and pure colors.  

The young Cuno Amiet began his artistic training in Munich in 1886. Here he met Giovanni Giacometti a year later, with whom he had a lifelong friendship. Impressed by the painting they had seen at the "International Art Exhibition" in the Munich Glass Palace, the two friends decided to leave Germany and continue their studies in Paris. From autumn 1888 they studied at the Académie Julian with William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. They shared accommodation and studio and soon joined the Swiss artistic circle around Max Leu and Hans Emmenegger. They both spent the summer months in Switzerland, at times with Giacometti in Stampa, but also in Solothurn, where Giacometti joined the so-called correction lessons with Frank Buchser, which Amiet took. Amiet spent the winter of 1891/92 in Switzerland to complete the NCO school in Zurich. After his return to Paris, he resumed his studies at the Académie Julian, but felt increasingly uncomfortable there. The rigid academic teaching no longer satisfied him and he felt that he had "reached a dead end with (his) studies". At the suggestion of the Hungarian painter Hugo Poll, he finally decided to leave Paris and travel to Brittany, to Pont-Aven. "...When I was in my fourth year of Parisian studies, as I did not want to go forward at all, I was lost in the streets, and the Hungarian Poll gave me the advice: Go to Mariejeanne in Pont-Aven...".

Cuno Amiet - Prozession in Pont-Aven, 1892, Öl auf Leinwand, 27 x 41 cm.

  

Cuno Amiet - Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln, 1893, Tempera auf Leinwand, 49 x 28,6 cm.

In May 1892, the 24-year-old Amiet reached the small fishing village of Pont-Aven. Like many other artists, he lived in the pension of Marie-Jeanne Gloanec, a cheerful, down-to-earth Breton woman in her fifties, who looked after "her" artists like a mother. It was here that Amiet met Emile Bernard, Paul Sérusier, Armand Séguin and the Scottish painter Roderic O'Connor, with whom he became very close friends. Especially with O'Connor Amiet exchanged ideas about new goals in painting. These were no longer exhausted in the objective reproduction of what was seen, but rather the demand was to include subjective experience and sensations; to this end, the artists had discovered the expressiveness of elementary pictorial means.  The stimulating climate among artist friends and the examination of the work of van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne proved to be very fruitful for the work of the young Amiet. The artist was particularly impressed by Gauguin's paintings - he was already in Tahiti at the time and was not due to return to Brittany for a last time until Amiet's departure for Switzerland. "The great experience", he noted years later, "was Gauguin and some paintings by van Gogh". Amiet turned away from academic tone painting and began to paint with pure colours, which he applied to the picture carrier in emphatically contoured areas or in strokes placed close together.

Amiet stayed in the small fishing village from May 1892 to June 1893, months that were to be of lasting importance for his artistic development. "Thirteen months I was able to stay in the beautiful Pont-Aven," the artist recalls in retrospect, "and then I had to leave France, my France, which I loved dearly, which had sheltered me like one of its sons, which voluntarily revealed its beautiful soul to me through art. Even if with empty pockets, but richly endowed with goods of a higher kind, I now returned to my homeland".

The "Prozession in Pont-Aven" belongs to the same narrow work that was created during Amiet's stay in Brittany. The extremely charming depiction of a traditional "Pardon", a religious procession in honour of local saints, would be unthinkable without his examination of the work of his Breton models, especially Gauguin and van Gogh. In his search for light and colour, he developed his own characteristics in the pointillist painting technique. This is based on the simultaneous interaction (simultaneous contrast) of small neighbouring spots of colour. Through optical fusion and additive colour mixing, the colour dots form themselves into shapes. Following this principle, the picture content of the painting is reduced to its most elementary forms, because the entire colour impression of a surface only emerges in the eye of the observer and from a certain distance. Amiet enthusiastically took up the suggestions of his artist friends and integrated them into his own style of expression within a few weeks. A sunny, luminous coloring and the visible brushstroke, which structures the picture surface in a concise manner, are among the most striking stylistic elements of his pictures created in Pont-Aven, as is also shown in the charming "Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln".

Henry Moret - Pont Aven. La Lande de Saint Guénolé, 1902, Öl auf Leinwand, 51 x 71 cm.

Cuno Amiet - Prozession in Pont-Aven, 1892, Öl auf Leinwand, 27 x 41 cm.

Cuno Amiet - Prozession in Pont-Aven, 1892, Öl auf Leinwand, 27 x 41 cm.

Cuno Amiet - Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln, 1893, Tempera auf Leinwand, 49 x 28,6 cm.

Cuno Amiet - Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln, 1893, Tempera auf Leinwand, 49 x 28,6 cm.

Henry Moret - Pont Aven. La Lande de Saint Guénolé, 1902, Öl auf Leinwand, 51 x 71 cm.

Henry Moret - Pont Aven. La Lande de Saint Guénolé, 1902, Öl auf Leinwand, 51 x 71 cm.