The Women of Pont-Aven

Although women were one of the main sources of inspiration for artists, their place as artists was much more discreet. Find out more about them in the museum's collection!

Miss Julia and horse by AnonymousMuseum of Pont-Aven

Women as inspiration and as artists

The Pont-Aven School's renown is largely based on its male artists, and the museum's collections are mainly made up of pieces created by men. Discover the work of seven female artists who contributed to the thriving Breton culture through their work, as well as the women behind the scenes of the creative process for the painters of Pont-Aven.

Miss Julia sitting dog by AnonymousMuseum of Pont-Aven

Madame Julia, the woman behind the inn

Julia Guillou (1848–1927) was born in Pont-Aven and gave her name to the hotel she managed for several years, which became an essential destination in this town in Finistère, Brittany. This hotel was much more than a simple vacation spot: It was the heart of a thriving community of artists who came from all across France and overseas during the second half of the 19th century.

Dining room Hotel Julia, Anonymous, From the collection of: Museum of Pont-Aven
The Julia Hotel and Annex, LL, From the collection of: Museum of Pont-Aven
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Marie-Jeanne GLOANEC by AnonymousMuseum of Pont-Aven

Marie-Jeanne Gloanec, hostess of Paul Gauguin

The famous Pension Gloanec earned its eminent reputation after becoming the site of fateful encounters between artists. Paul Gauguin stayed here on several of his visits. The warm welcome and inexpensive rooms made Marie-Jeanne's inn a very appealing place to stay.

Facade of the Pension Gloanec, Anonymous, From the collection of: Museum of Pont-Aven
Pont-Aven, painters on the bridge in 1886, Anonymous, From the collection of: Museum of Pont-Aven
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Portrait of Marie Lagadu (1889/1889) by Paul SERUSIERMuseum of Pont-Aven

The inspiring Breton woman

Pont-Aven gave artists unique inspiration through its varied landscapes and heritage, but the people who brought the region to life were also a significant source of inspiration. 

This portrait of Marie Lagadu created by Paul Sérusier in 1889 illustrates the desire to depict the "exoticism" of Brittany through its inhabitants. The artist met Marie Lagadu in an inn, where she worked as a waitress.

Inn staff frequently agreed to pose for painters. Here, the model is depicted in a bust view and three-quarter profile, and wears the typical working headgear of Pont-Aven.

Portrait of Marie Schewtzoff (Vers 1897) by Wladyslaw SLEWINSKIMuseum of Pont-Aven

Female models

This other portrait also reveals the inspiration provided by seasonal workers, who came to Pont-Aven to enjoy the tranquility of the Breton countryside. 

Indeed, it was in Le Pouldu in 1895 that the painter Slewinski met two young Russian sisters, Marie and Eugénie, on vacation. 

Slewinski painted their portrait in 1897 and exhibited it in 1898 in the Georges Thomas Gallery in Paris. Here, he painted his future sister-in-law, Marie.

A muse for artists, she acquired several artworks by Filiger and O’Conor and knew the poet Ernest Dowson, who dedicated a poem to her in 1896. 

In 1900, she married a musician from Nantes, Ernest LeGrand, while her sister Eugénie married Slewinski in 1899.

Park an Déro, the garden by Mary PIRIOUMuseum of Pont-Aven

Female artists

Discover seven artworks from the Pont-Aven Museum's collections, all created by female artists who came to stay in the city of painters.

Crampouez Montroulez (1941) by Félicie HERRMuseum of Pont-Aven

Félicie Herr (1880 - 1960)

Born in Morlaix, Félicie Herr was a self-taught artist who engraved on wood and linoleum, in addition to practising pyrography, photography, and ceramics. She illustrated Vieilles Images de Morlaix (Old Images of Morlaix) by Jean de Trigon in 1941 and Images Bretonnes (Breton Images) by the same author in 1946. She was friends with the artist Mary Piriou, the writer Fanch Gourvil, and the poet Marie-Paule Salonne.

Breton at a table, smoking a pipe (1908) by Maud HUNT SQUIREMuseum of Pont-Aven

Maud Hunt Squire (1873–1954)

Born in Ohio, Maud Hunt Squire was a student at the Cincinnati Art Academy before continuing her studies in Munich and then in Paris in 1906. She began engraving in 1903 and used etching and aquatint techniques for her Breton subjects, inspired by the Concarneau region.

Tannage des voiles à Camaret devant la chapelle Rocamadour (1928) by Yvonne JEAN-HAFFENMuseum of Pont-Aven

Yvonne Jean-Haffen (1895–1993)

Starting out as a student of Auguste Leroux, Yvonne Jean-Haffen later discovered Brittany alongside her second teacher, Mathurin Méheut. She remained attached to the region for her whole life. She was particularly fond of scenes of forgiveness, of daily life, and seascapes. A loyal exhibitor at the Société Nationale des Beaux-arts, she also participated in the Tuileries Salons, as well as marine or drawing Salons, in addition to creating several liner décors and illustrations for publications. She also collaborated with pottery workshops in Quimper. She passed away in Dinan, where she lived in a property named La Grande Vigne, which is now a museum.

The Bois d’Amour at Pont-Aven (1883) by Marie LUPLAUMuseum of Pont-Aven

Marie Luplau (1848 - 1925)

Of Danish origin, Marie Luplau formed part of the Scandinavian community that settled in Pont-Aven in the late 19th century. Having trained at Vilhelm Khyn's studio, she finished her training in Paris at the Académie Colarossi. A committed feminist, she campaigned alongside her friend Émilie Mundt, who was also an artist. In 1886, they founded a private academy in Frederiksberg, Denmark, which was open to women painters until 1913.

Saint Maurice Duault by Jeanne MALIVELMuseum of Pont-Aven

Jeanne Malivel (1895 - 1926)

Jeanne Malivel left Paris to live in her hometown of Loudéac. A figure of the Seiz Breur movement, she dedicated her life to the Breton cause and to rejuvenating arts anchored in a regionalist tradition. In 1922, she illustrated l’Histoire de Notre Bretagne (The History of Our Brittany) by Jeanne Coroller-Danio with a series of highly expressive wood engravings. With the aim of reforging ties with popular imagery, this series was a precursor to the Fourteen Saints of Brittany series, published by the Seiz Breur.

The Bois d’Amour at Pont-Aven (1883) by Marie LUPLAUMuseum of Pont-Aven

Here, Marie Luplau depicts the Bois d’Amour and its rows of beech trees in the realistic Barbizon School style, which paid meticulous attention to detail.

Saint Maurice Duault by Jeanne MALIVELMuseum of Pont-Aven

Seiz Breur

An artistic movement that existed between the two world wars, led by Jeanne Malivel and her fellow artists Georges Robin and René-Yves Creston, the Seiz Breur brought together artistic craftsmen and artists wanting to showcase Breton heritage while also demonstrating their art, which was avant-garde and modern.

Park an Déro, the garden by Mary PIRIOUMuseum of Pont-Aven

Mary Piriou (1881–1956)

Born in Morlaix, Mary Piriou was taught by Charles Raub. In 1902, she was admitted to the Académie Julian to take classes from Julian Simon and Antoine Bourdelle in sculpture, and went on to spend time at the Académie Colarossi and the studio of F. Humbert. Familiar with the city of painters, the Piriou family regularly vacationed there from the start of the century onwards, staying at the Gloanec guest house before purchasing a villa on the quays of Pont-Aven. Mary Piriou presented Impressionist and Synthetist works in Breton galleries and at the annual Paris Salons.

The children's tea party in Plougastel (Vers 1929) by Marie-Renée CHEVALLIER-KERVERNMuseum of Pont-Aven

Marie-Renée Chevalier-Kervern (1902 - 1987)

Born in Landerneau, she became an artistic painter after training in decorative arts at the Académie Julian and after being taught by engraver Bernard Naudin at the Académie Colarossi. 

She settled in Brest in 1936 to follow her husband. A known figure of the art community in Brest, she rubbed shoulders with Charles Estienne, Jean Lachaud, and Marguerite Sérusier, among others. 

Her work was characterized by various techniques and styles: glue-and-paper, classic and non-figurative paintings, decoration and illustration of pottery, modeling, sculpture, and engraving.

Credits: Story

Created by Nolwenn-Marie Biamba, apprentice
Sophie Kervran, director of museums
Camille Armandary, in charge of exhibitions and communication

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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