HENRY MORETFrench 1856 - 1913

This vibrant view of Brittany captures the natural and social landscape of North West France at the end of the nineteenth century, illustrating the cyclical rhythm of peasant life as two women with pitch forks turn the cut hay drying in fields below their village. The area attracted a host of different artists in the second half of the nineteenth century. Their arrival coincided with the recently completed construction of the train line to the region, and their desire to escape increasing urbanisation in search of a simpler more ‘authentic’ life. It was Gauguin of course who is the painter most readily associated with the Pont Aven and Le Pouldu. He arrived in the area for the first time in 1886, and returned intermittently over the following eight years. But unlike Gauguin and others who came and went, Moret was the artist who stayed, remaining in the region all his life, and becoming its most ardent and faithful chronicler.

HENRY MORETFrench 1856 - 1913

Introduced to Brittany when he was posted as a soldier to Lorient, it was his commanding officer who encouraged Moret’s artistic talents. In 1876 he attended the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he studied under the leading Academic painter of the day Jean-Leon Gerome, and in 1880 he made his first submission to the annual Paris Salon, which appropriately enough was of a Breton coastal view. Later that decade Moret came under the influence of Gauguin in Pont Aven, moving with him and his acolytes to nearby Le Pouldu during the winter of 1889-90. As a consequence, for a certain period, Moret’s compositions became simpler, his picture surfaces flatter as his depiction of local Breton subjects gained a greater resonance and profundity. This new found edge to his work thereafter never entirely left him, and goes to the heart of both the isolated majesty and underlying poetry that he evokes in compositions such as the present work.

But with Gauguin’s final departure for the South Pacific in 1894, and Moret’s introduction to Paul Durand-Ruel the following year, Moret’s style altered once again to embrace Impressionism. Durand-Ruel had been the making of the Impressionists in the 1870s and 80s, but was ever on the lookout for their natural heirs. Encouraged by the dealer to submit works to him for sale, and be promoted as one of the next generation of Impressionist painters, Moret developed a more feathery Impressionistic technique - Monet-like in style - that would come to define his work during the last two decades of his life, agreeing in the process an advantageous arrangement to supply the dealer with a rich vein of local and quintessentially Breton subject matter.