The ‘Talisman’ by Paul Sérusier : A prophecy of colour

The last great exhibition to be seen in Paris! Organized by the Orsay and Orangerie museums and the Pont-Aven museum, it displays more than 60 paintings, including exceptional loans from French museums, as well as many artworks from private collections.

A turning point in the History of art

Paul Sérusier : Le Talisman dit aussi Paysage au Bois d’Amour, recto, 1888 - © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Paul Sérusier : Le Talisman dit aussi Paysage au Bois d’Amour, verso, 1888 - © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

This open-air study produced by Paul Sérusier in Pont-Aven , in October 1888 “under the direction of Gauguin”, evidenced by the handwritten inscription on the back of the panel, was instantly raised to iconic status. On his return to the Académie Julian, he presented this ‘synthetic’ landscape with its pure lines and simplified forms to the Nabis (‘prophets’ in Hebrew), who made it their ‘talisman’.
The work joined the collection of Maurice Denis, who contributed to its status as a founding work by recounting the story of its creation in a text published in the magazine L’Occident, in 1903: “How do you see this tree? said Gauguin at the Bois d’Amour: Is it really green? Use green, then, the most beautiful green on your palette. And that shadow, rather blue? Don't be afraid to paint it as blue as possible”.
Thus was introduced to us for the first time, the concept of a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.


Maurice Denis - Les Arbres verts dit aussi Les Hêtres de Kerduel, 1893 - © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais) / Hervé Lewandowski
Paul Sérusier - Dissonance chaude / Dissonance froide, vers 1921 - Saint-Germain-en-Laye, musée départemental Maurice Denis - © Droits réservés
Emile Bernard - Madeleine au Bois d’Amour, 1888 - © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

This exhibition looks back at the history of this iconic work in the Musée d'Orsay collections By drawing on the latest research into this subject, it retraces the context of its creation, its place in Sérusier’s oeuvre, and its relation to that of his Nabis comrades. It also looks at its material history, that of a small oil painting on wood, an unfinished work measuring 27 by 21 cm, the improvised character of which Maurice Denis had exaggerated when referring to a cigar box. The analyses conducted by the C2RMF (Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France) in 2018 give more details on the nature of the medium and the colours used by the artist.
Lastly, the exhibition touches on the history of the reactions of artists at the time, as well as its posterity in 20th century art.
Mars 2019
By La rédaction
29 January – 2 June 2019
Open daily, except Mondays, 9.30am – 6pm, Thursdays until 9.45 pm.
Admission / museum and exhibition entrance ticket: full rate: €14 / concessions: €11 / free for visitors aged under 26 residing in or citizens of a European Union country
Musée d’Orsay, access through the main entrance, 1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris Information