Fernand LE GOUT-GÉRARD (Saint-Lô, 1856 - Paris, 1924)

Breton Women Returning from Work at the Fish Factory on the Isle of Sein

65 x 54 cm. (25 916 x 21 516 in.)
c. 1900 Pastel on paper mounted on a stretcher. Signed lower left in pencil : FL Also signed lower right in black chalk: F Le Gout Gerard Title inscribed in pencil of verso of mount.

Mulhouse, unknown date (according to a label on verso).

Sunsets in the Bay of Concarneau, women and children waiting at the port for fishermen to return, jostling crowds at market… Fernand Le Gout-Gérard’s picturesque universe never ceased to appeal to those who loved poetique images of the Breton people which reflected a way of life soon to be forever in the past.

Originally from Normandy, Le Gout-Gérard abandonned a career in the financial administration at the age of 33 in order to pursue his painting activities. A participant in the Salon of French Artists starting in 1889, and then at the National Society of Fine Arts from 1894 on, Le Gout-Gérard was also appreciated in other countries, notably by the Pastel Society in London. In 1900, he was appointed as a painter for the Navy, a year before Ziem and Signac entered this prestigious corps.

The artist discovered Concarneau in the 1890’s and settled there definitively in 1903. His villa, Ker Moor, had a large studio overlooking the bay. Residing in Paris in winter, he also painted Venice, Greece, and even North Africa, but his views of Brittany – Concarneau, Quimper, and Douarnenez – are what has been passed down to posterity.

Le Gout-Gérard had a predeliction for twilight atmospheres, as in this painting where he captured the sun setting on a bark of Breton women returning from the fish factory on the Isle of Sein. Many types of fish abounded around this rocky island, which was thus an active fishing center where conger eel in particular was prepared for export to Bordeaux, before being redistributed throughout southern France and Spain.

The small sailboat advances with the wind at its back, the full sail illuminated by the last setting rays of light. After the day’s labor, the Breton women huddle there in exhaustion, their black silhouettes topped with white. Since the island women wore black bonnets, we know that these are from the continent.

The painter handles pastel audaciously: sky blue gives head dresses their form, a Prussian blue highlights black attire. Behind this group, other sailboats are reduced to shadows as they head for a shore which can be barely discerned on the horizon The sea is bursting with colors, as the artist juxtaposes lively unmixed strokes of light green, yellow, pink, orange, light blue, and ultramarine to display dazzling light effects. Using similar harmonies of blended velvet hues, the initially blue sky is overlaid with shimmering veils of yellow and pinkish orange.

Our pastel could be contemporary with The Ferry, a pastel on paper of 1899 (Thierry-Lannon & Associates Sale, Brest, December 10th, 2001, lot 98) which also depicts a small boat filled with women returning from work at the end of the day when the sun has just disappeared.

General Bibliography
Jean-Marc MICHAUD, Fernand Le Gout-Gérard. 1854-1924, exh. cat. Faouët Museum, 2010.

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