Serafina Louis: the path from a poor cleaning lady to the author of a new direction (18 photos)

8 January 2024
Category: painting, England, 0+

In the small town of Arcy, in the vicinity of Paris, in the early autumn of 1864, a girl was born. Who happened to learn to see the faces of flowers and became the founder of a special direction in painting.

Little Serafina had no signs of talent. The girl’s mother, a simple peasant woman, died when the baby was one year old. My father, a worker, got married, but pretty soon he also passed away. Serafina was taken in by her older sister. And a seven-year-old girl had to work just like adults to earn a piece of bread.

Serafina Louis. One of the few surviving photos

As a teenager, she entered a monastery, where in many ways the traits that laid the foundation for the development of Louis’ talent were formed - concentration, attentiveness, scrupulousness, closeness, accuracy and incredible piety.

At the beginning of the last century, a reserved and quiet woman moved to Senlis, a city in northern France. And she did hard work - she was a day laborer. Serafina did not have a family or children - her closeness did not encourage communication with her. No one knew that in the short minutes of rest the cleaning lady... drew. She bought painting paints for pennies at a local shop, experimented with natural pigments - bird's blood, plant juice, homemade "chemicals" (the formulas of some of her paints have not yet been deciphered).

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Painting that others did not perceive as art is primitivism. But not quite ordinary: looking at the fragile curls and juicy sweetness of the fruits of her work, it seems that the woman embodied some kind of unreal inner light, splashing it out from the depths of her soul.

The fame of the popular artist came by chance. The still life with apples was seen by the German critic Wilhelm Uhde, who discovered Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. A man rented a house in Senlis and saw the same picture from a neighbor. Which was drawn by a maid - a reserved woman who washed floors during the day and created amazing masterpieces at night. Ude gave her basic recommendations, bought paints and other materials, and limited her main activity.

Wilhelm Uhde

But I had to stop with creativity when the war began. Wilhelm, as a citizen of an enemy state, left France. And his ward returned to hard, dirty work.

After the war ended, Ude returned and continued to support his protégé. But due to the Great Depression of 1930, he went bankrupt. The loss of the ability to create had a negative impact on Seraphina's condition. Piety acquired excessive forms. The woman completely closed in on herself, heard voices, muttered something under her breath. Mental illness manifested itself completely, and the poor girl was placed in a psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of “acute psychosis.”

The patron, taking advantage of his remaining authority and connections, managed to organize several exhibitions of Serafina’s works. But the representative of primitivism no longer cared about this: her mind was completely mired in the darkness of madness.

The poor thing died in Villa-sous-Erquierie in 1942. The official cause of death was oncology, but in fact she died of starvation. Because in a godforsaken place of an occupied country, no one cared about the unfortunate people with sorrowful minds.

Still from the film "Séraphine of Senlis"

A few years later, her works began to be exhibited in galleries in different countries. The starting price of Serafina Louis's painting at auction is 200 thousand euros. In 2008, the film “Séraphine of Senlis” was released about the life of this strange woman and talented artist.

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