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Fernand Le Goût-Gérard 1854 – 1924

Photograph of a painting by Fernand Le Gout-Gerard.

Concarneau

Oil on panel 10 ¾ x 8 ½ inches. Signed by the artist

Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2002

Fernand Le Goût-Gérard was born in Saint-Lo in the Manche region of France in October 1854. He developed an early interest in painting and from the age of fourteen he occupied himself in copying works of eighteenth century masters. However family pressure soon forced him to abandon his passion in favour of a career in the general treasury of La Manche. Fortunately, he eventually managed to pursue his love of painting whilst holding down a job at the bank, as his grandfather had done before him. Le Goût-Gérard lived in Paris from 1880 to 1890 where he continued to work tirelessly at his art. His toil was rewarded when he met the painter Meissonnier, who provided Le Goût-Gérard with his first opportunity at the time of the general exhibition of 1889.

The master’s son introduced Le Goût-Gérard to the thriving artistic community of Concarneau, where the artist was to spend much of the rest of his life. In 1903 he bought a villa in the town in which he installed a studio with a magnificent view across the breadth of the bay. Concarneau was to remain a central influence on Le Goût-Gérard throughout his life as a painter. When his parents died the artist abandoned his career in finance and devoted himself entirely to painting. Markets and fairs were amongst Le Goût-Gérard’s favourite subjects. He greatly enjoyed setting up his easel in the midst of the bustling crowds of the Concarneau marketplace, and recording the activity that surrounded him. He took great pleasure in the conversation and camaraderie of ordinary people. This is clearly reflected in the authenticity of the characters in his work. Le Goût-Gérard was an artist dedicated to realism. He enjoyed experimenting with light and shade and strove, in many of his paintings, to capture the nuances of the rising and setting sun. His success in doing so is vividly displayed in his depictions of the departure of fishing boats in the morning and their return at sunset. He did not confine himself to Brittany and painted in locations as diverse as Venice, Greece, and North Africa. However, Brittany was his first love and he remained loyal to the region for life.

His particular love of Concarneau is clearly reflected in the many works he painted there. Our painting is a typical example in which he depicts the bustling activity of daily life on the quayside as the fleet returns from sea. Small groups of buyers and sellers sort the fish into boxes and argue the price as more boats arrive to tie up and land their catch. Others work away in their boats as they prepare to go ashore. Tall sails fill the painting and reflect their colours of orange, red, green, blue and yellow ochre on the calm water of the harbour. The same colours are mirrored in the costume of the fishermen and women who have come down from the village in traditional dress to fill their baskets. In the distance, under a sky of billowing clouds, the artist completes the scene with an inspiring view of a hazy summer landscape.

Photograph of a painting by Fernand Le Gout-Gerard.

Marché à Concarneau

Oil on panel, 8 ¾ x 10 ¾ inches. Signed by the artist

 

This fine painting is a broader view of Concarneau which shows a detail of the current view. For such a small panel, the artist displays remarkable skills in depicting such a complex view, with so many figures and so much activity. With the benefit of last year’s composition, we can visualise in detail the landing and sorting of the catch on the distant quayside from where the two figures to the right make their way towards the main market. Situated at the edge of the village, the stallholders supply the villagers with fish from the quay, whilst those in the main market sell a variety of fruits and vegetables. The covered stalls to the left are a familiar feature in the paintings of Concarneau. They were painted by many other artists and were often included in the works of Aloysius O’Kelly. The mood and atmosphere displayed here suggests that these local markets were not just a place to purchase produce. They were the lifeblood and grapevine of the villages. Even the two groups of tiny children appear to be engaged in passing on the latest news.

Photograph of a painting by the French artist, Fernand Le Gout-Gerard.

Marché près de l'église Notre-Dame de Saint

Oil on panel, 8 ½ x 10 ½ inches. Signed by the artist

 

Heretofore, this  fine panel has been incorrectly catalogued as a Breton market. Given the similarity of costume and the number of comparable paintings of Brittany, the mistake is understandable. However, this makes the painting all the more interesting, especially when we consider that Saint Lô is the birthplace of the artist and that the buildings depicted in the painting were virtually destroyed during the war. Not only was the artist born here, but it was also where he spent his youth and so it is no wonder that he paints this familiar scene with such affection. In his usual manner, he fills the composition with detail. The trestle tables are laden with fresh fruit and vegetables. To the foreground there is a display of colourful potted plants. The scene is highly animated with locals searching through the stall for the best produce. With many of his paintings, Le Goût-Gérard adds interest by including a number of figures kneeling on the ground. He employs the same technique here as they work through the boxes of produce. The covered stalls are similar to those seen in the Breton paintings. The rounded canvas to the right may be the same one that covers a cart pulled by a white horse in the only other known Saint Lô market scene by the artist. This is a wider view of the market taken from a different direction without a view of the church. It shows a number of buildings with awnings similar to the one shown here on the extreme right. The scene is set under an atmospheric sky with smoke billowing from one of the houses and a flock of crows coming in to roost on the parapets.

 

Saint Lô is an ancient town constructed on the solid foundations of a high rocky hillside. The ramparts built up by Charlemagne in the 9th century remain to this day. Their mediaeval towers provide a wide panorama of the Vire Valley and the river which provides the lifeblood of the town. The construction of the church began in 1290 on the site of the 11th century Chapel of Sainte Marie du Chateau. The construction continued over the next four centuries and was completed in 1685. During the incessant bombings of June 1944, the right hand tower was fortunate to survive with just the loss of the spire. The second tower was reduced to the level of the first story. Some of the exterior walls survived intact and, with what remains of the towers, they give a good idea of the wonderful gothic detail of the church which has been restored with as much as possible of the original structure retained. 

Photograph of a painting by Fernand Le Gout-Gerard.

 

A View from La Digue, Concarneau

 

Oil on panel, 9½ x 12½ inches. Signed by the artist

Exhibited:
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin, December 2005

 

Although they are to the side of the painting, the central figures here are the two girls who stroll along the quayside, engrossed in their knitting. They may be sisters or perhaps just friends. It appears that they are not involved in the activity of the fish sellers but have walked into the view as they make their way along the waterfront. Further to the left, a mother carries a small child on her hip and has two other young children in attendance. She holds the hand of a tiny girl in a summer bonnet, who appears to be in conversation with her older brother. They may be waiting for the arrival of their father’s boat. The same child appears in a number of other paintings by the artist.

It is early evening and two fishermen by the edge of the quay find time to discuss the events of the day. The women sit over their baskets shelling their prawns, which would have been boiled on the boats before landing. These small clusters of seated and crouching women are a hallmark of Le Goût-Gérard’s work.

The quay on which he painted many of these scenes is known as La Digue, situated at the outer end of the harbour. A short distance to the left, but out of view, are the 13th century fortified ramparts for which Concarneau is famous. The artist had his back to the Quai de la Croix. The view across the water looks towards Quimperlé. The ground rising gently from the harbour is depicted here in the rich colours of summer.

Photograph of a Volendam painting by the French artist, Fernand Le Gout-Gerard.

Volendam

Oil on panel. 7 x 10½ inches. Signed by the artist and inscribed Volendam

Provenance: Adolphe Legoupy, 5 Boulevard de la Madeleine, Paris
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2008

We have had a number of paintings from the small fishing village of Volendam, located on the Zuider Zee, to the north of Amsterdam over the last few years, and have mentioned some of the distinguished artists who worked there: Auguste Renoir, Walter Langley, Paul Signac, Max Liebermann, Théo van Rysselberghe, and the American painter, John Rettig who became one of the central figures of this little-known colony. The discovery of the present painting makes an interesting addition to the list.

Le Goût-Gérard must have felt very much at home in Volendam; the distinctive costume would have reminded him of Brittany where he painted many similar works depicting everyday life along a busy quayside. The boats moored along the wooden harbour wall are recognisable as belonging to the Dutch fishing fleet. They have just returned from sea with a catch for landing, some of which would have been sold directly to the local villagers. They are portrayed here as they purchase their provisions from the stalls and barrows that line the quayside. In the foreground, a small group have gathered by the waterside to land another catch from a boat, which is just out of view.

A group of older men are engrossed in conversation, protected from the sun by their wide brimmed hats. Their dark sombre clothing is in stark contrast to the colourful costume of the women who wear their distinctive winged bonnets. A mother carries a child on her arm while centre stage is occupied by two young children; a device regularly employed by Le Goût-Gérard.

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Tel. # 353 1 269 3486 - Email 'art at mpfa.ie'

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