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Cuno Amiet

Les Sabots, 1892
oil on cardboard mounted on canvas
25.0 x 33.0 cm
“In Pont-Aven I was greeted by a smiling, friendly, robust young Breton woman who was cleanly dressed with a broad white collar and wearing on her head a white headdress with a red ribbon”, writes Cuno Amiet on 11 June 1892, a few days after his arrival at Pont-Aven in Brittany. He will stay there for a year and the different subjects he paints reflect the culture of this French province, from landscapes and Breton portraits to views of the sea and the village of Pont-Aven. As if in counterpoint to the portraits of the region’s women, Amiet chooses to represent here the attributes that most characterise them, pursuing that quest for authenticity peculiar to the artists who come to work in Brittany.

Emblematic of provincial life, Breton women indeed convey simple values unconnected with the corrupt world of the great cities taking shape at that time. This still life then presents in all simplicity a pair of clogs and a Breton headdress. In a close-up view Amiet focuses on the objects for their similar forms while working the very materiality of the paint, letting traces of his brushstrokes score the pigment slightly. Brushed with broad fragmented touches of paint, this picture is in keeping with the work of the French postimpressionists. It is also in 1892 that Amiet meets Émile Bernard, who “shows [him] the first Van Goghs and who is the first to speak to [him] about Cézanne”, according to the Swiss painter.
Cuno Amiet, Les Sabots, 1892