Pont-Aven greets artists since 1864. The Americans were the first ones to settle, then came the impressionists, Gauguin and the “Ecole de Pont-Aven”… Today the museum introduces the public to the pictural evolution in Pont-Aven and artists keep their galeries open to you.
Henry Bacon is the one who discovered Pont-Aven in 1864. Immediately charmed by the little town, he managed to get other american artists to come there, including the painter Robert Wylie from Philadelphia.
As many other american artists at the time, Henry Bacon studies painting in Paris. He rubs shoulders with Robert Wylie and Charles Way. Every summer, the parisian workshops close for the holidays and on Henry Bacon’s advice, Wylie and Way come to Pont-Aven.
Wylie falls in love with the town (he is even buried in Pont-Aven) and more importantly, he manages to get other artists to join him. In summer, painters are coming from England, Paris and Nordic countries to visit Pont-Aven. The locals end up by calling them all “Americans”. This generation of academic painters, inspired by the customs, the landscapes and the people, boost Pont-Aven and ensure its renown.
Other painters wish to get away from big cities and look for a change of scenery: those are the impressionists. They use to paint with very small brush movements and are looking for light.
Guest houses, inns and the locals’ welcome are important for these impressionist painters who are not well-known at the time and often run out of money. Most of them are staying at the Marie-Jeanne Gloanec’s: an accommodating woman which who the painters can negociate some payment facilities.
The pictural change occurs when an impressionist painter and disciple of Pissarro arrives in Pont-Aven: Paul Gauguin. He first discovers the village in 1886. He meets the young Emile Bernard with whom he shares a lot of ideas and together they will create the “synthetism”movement. It is the birth of the Pont-Aven School which advocates flat tinting of vivid colours and removal of details and perspective.
For about ten years, a colony of artists will settle in the village with one rallying cry: “to dare all”
When the Great War breaks out, Marie-Jeanne and Julia Guillou’s clients have become tourists. Little by little Gauguin gets recognition and his visits make Pont-Aven famous. Painters come back to Pont-Aven in the 1920’s where they find the welcoming inns back. At the time, the Hôtel de la Poste, held by Julia Correlleau and her husband Ernest Correlleau, is particularly renowned. The latter is an artist and like to be surrounded by a new team of artists, like Maurice Asselin, Jacques Vaillant, Pierre Eugène Clairin… Or writers, such as Pierre Mac Orlan.
In 1939, a plate remembering the Pont-Aven School and its artists is appended on the frontage of Marie-Jeanne’s former inn (in presence of Emile Bernard and Maurice Denis).
Unfortunately the Second World War put an end to this dynamic. Only a few artists such as Jourdan or Delavallée remain in Pont-Aven. In 1953 an exhibition is held to commemorate Gauguin’s fiftieth death anniversary.
Work goes on at the Hôtel de la Poste where Nicole succeeds her mother. Thanks to her kindness and generosity, she manages to keep her mother’s customers and develops her own clientele. Most of her clients slowly become friends as they find the atmosphere in the inn very welcoming: there, sailors rub shoulders with painters, locals and tourists.
In 1962, the artist Marcel Gonzalez is passing through Pont-Aven and decides to stay for three months at Nicole’s, after what he will decide to permanently stay in pont-Aven.
Other artists such as Claud Huart, Xavier Grall, Jean Mingam and Michel Thersiquel also orbit Nicole, also known as “Zicou”.
In 1979, Nicole’s health problems will force her to shut her business down.
At the same time, the local council decides to rearrange the former annexe of Julia Guillou into three exhibition rooms. The painting Society launches a big price to attract new painters and exhibitions are held, one after another.
The painting Society continues its approach and the town gets its renowned artists back together with contemporary painters, decided to open their own galleries.
A new centre of attraction is created: the Museum of Pont-Aven. In 1986, over 100 000 visitors come to admire the exhibition commemorating the hundreth death anniversary of Gauguin. The museum was closed in 2012 for renovting and opened again in 2016 in the former Hôtel Julia.
With its strange bridge going over a quick river which makes several picturesque water wheels turn, before going further on to the sea, it is the prettiest village I have ever seen so far…
Nowadays it is still possible to follow art classes and to visit artist’s studio.
Thus, with its museum and its 60 private exhibition places, Pont-Aven is definitely rooted in its pictural heritage.
Several years ago (1992), a group of artists have gathered together to form a collective called Hangar’t. Painting the memory of Nizon’s rurality is one of their main purpose.
The Hangar’t’s collection consists of many works mainly displayed in Nizon’s cafés and shops, all year long.
The Hangar’t’s events: Nizon pardon and the Fête des Cabanes (“Huts festival” in Kerevennou)