Impressions of Belle Ile

Belle Ile, France

Belle Ile, France

The island of Belle Ile in France has been a popular location for artists. Octave Penguilly L’Haridon’s 1859 painting Les Petites mouettes (“Little Gulls”) (1858, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes) depicts the island. It was praised by Maxime du Camp and Charles Baudelaire, who referred to the sense of the uncanny, as though the rocks make “a portal open to infinity…a wound of white birds, and the solitude!” During the 1870s and 1880s, French Impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the rock formations at Belle Île. Monet’s series of paintings of the rocks at Belle Île astounded the Paris art world when he first exhibited them in 1887. Most notable are the Storm, Coast at Belle-Ile and Cliffs at Belle-Ile both rendered in 1886. The first time Auguste Rodin saw the ocean off the Brittany coast he exclaimed, “It’s a Monet.” 1

On the island of Belle Ile

On the island of Belle Ile

Claude Monet arrived on September 12 1886 for 15 days but he did not leave until 75 days later. He worked relentlessly and within 10 weeks had painted no less than 39 canvasses. Nowadays, his paintings are on display in museums all over the world. Besides this legacy, the famous painter left an abundance of correspondence addressed to his friends, merchants and mostly to his wife who stayed in Giverny. Through constant correspondence, he explained the islands’ lifestyle at the end of the 19th century : His stay in a hostel in Kervilahouen with fishermen, the food, the comfort of that time, the supply difficulties, the erratic climate and the fascinating beauty of the sea. 2

Phare des Poulains, Belle Ile, France

Phare des Poulains, Belle Ile, France

Australian born artist John Peter Russell was a man of means and having married a beautiful Italian, Mariana Antoinetta Matiocco, he settled at Belle Île off the coast of Brittany where he established an artists’ colony. Russell had met Vincent van Gogh in Paris and formed a friendship with him. Van Gogh spoke highly of Russell’s work, and after his first summer in Arles in 1888 he sent twelve drawings of his paintings to Russell, to inform him about the progress of his work. Monet often worked with Russell at Belle Île and influenced his style, though it has been said that Monet preferred some of Russell’s Belle Île seascapes to his own. Russell did not attempt to make his pictures known.

In 1897 and 1898 Henri Matisse visited Belle Île. 3


Tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *