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Cuno Amiet

Bretonne, 1892
charcoal on paper
13.5 x 23.5 cm
When Cuno Amiet arrives in the Breton town of Pont-Aven in 1892, he is twenty-four years old. For Amiet, this one-year stay is and will remain fundamental in terms of the friends and professional acquaintances he makes there. Between 1892 and 1893, he paints and draws numerous portraits of Breton women, recognisable from their traditional headdress. La Couseuse (Woman Sewing) features three sketches of a seamstress absorbed in the task before her, whilst Bretonne (Breton Woman) shows a woman standing in profile. Amiet’s supple, sure draughtsmanship recalls both Paul Gauguin’s and Honoré Daumier’s – it is in Pont-Aven that the young Swiss artist discovers with admiration the great French caricaturist’s lithographies. Amiet’s line sets off areas of flat unworked colours and underscores the outlines of forms in a synthetist style that offers a simplified, reconstructed view of reality. An indispensable practice in Amiet’s work, drawing constitutes the basis of all his compositions following his arrival in Brittany. In an 1892 letter to his father, the artist explains, “In the past, when I saw something that struck me, I would immediately sit down and begin painting; and when I had finished, I would be surprised not to find the impression that nature had inspired in me… From now on I shall work altogether differently. When I begin a picture, I ask myself first what joining of lines, what juxtaposition of tones inspired this or that impression in me. All that is very difficult to determine”.
Cuno Amiet, Bretonne, 1892