Art, Art History, Artists, Painters, Who was/is

Who was Séraphine de Senlis?

Séraphinede Senlis was a self-taught French artist known for her naïve paintings of flora, especially in large-format. She was born as Séraphine Louis and decided to adopt the name of the town “Senlis” as her surname.

L’arbre de vie by Séraphine de Senlis, 1928  (The tree of life) at Musée d’art et d’archéologie de Senlis

Séraphinede Senlis never received a formal artistic education, she forged an idiosyncratic style outside of the stablished artistic traditions searching for inspiration in religious art as the stained-glass church windows and in her own religious faith. Sometimes the intensity of the colours and replicative design of her works are interpreted as a reflection of her own psyche, between the ecstasy and mental illness.

She worked as a house keeper, a very arduous job, painting only during her leisure time,most usually at night by a candlelight in secret isolation. In 1912 her work was discovered by the German art dealer and collector Wilhelm Uhde, who wouldbe her patron, exhibiting her works alongside other so-called Primitive artists as Camille Bombois, André Bauchant and Louis Vivin.

Les grandes marguerites by Séraphine de Senlis, 1925 at  Musée Maillol in Paris

As she has suffered from mental health issues throughout her life, Séraphine de Senlis was committed to an asylum for chronic psychosis at Clemont in 1932 and remained in hospitals until her death. Even though Uhde reported her death in 1934, according to some sources she died on December of 1942 in a hospital annex at Villers-sous-Erquery at the age of 78 friendless and alone. She was buried in a common grave.

Her works seems fascinating to me, especially for the bright and vivid colours that, unfortunately, contrast sharply with the story of their creator.