March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently I watched the French film Seraphine, the story of a poor housekeeper in the early 1900s who painted in her spare time. Or rather a painter who cleaned houses to support her calling. The movie is slow, but beautifully shot as the trailer shows:

I loved this scene where she gathers her raw materials and mixes paint. Her painting isn’t just about the technique, the brush stroke on canvas; it also includes the craftsmanship of the paint itself. In order to paint (especially as a lower class woman dabbling in an expensive art form), she needed to know a bit of botany, herbology, and cooking chemistry, to be a jack of all trades. Today the artistic parallel might be the need for artists (whether designers, authors, or musicians) to know how to do business – to market one’s self and work. It’s not enough anymore to create good art; now you need to be savvy about getting it out there.

As for the artist herself, Seraphine de Senlis, I hadn’t heard of her before. But I think her work is stunning:


The intensity of her colors and her perspective of nature remind me a little of Georgia O’Keefe, though where O’Keefe focuses on simplicity and extreme close-ups, Seraphine replicates and spans.

Deux Grandes Marguerites

Perhaps too, I’m reminded of illuminated manuscripts, the wandering illustrations and patterns down the margins of an ancient text, brightly colored and highly detailed.

Whatever she does, she manages to make everything look so very much alive.


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