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Paul Sérusier: Art and Theosophy

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image of Religion and the Arts

The art of Paul Sérusier and that of his artist friends has been interpreted in this essay as having its roots in the Theosophical themes prevalent in an interdependent circle of authors and spiritualists in 18th and 19th century France. These mystical thinkers were less concerned with the writings and indomitable presence of the acknowledged leading light of Theosophy Helena Petrovna Blavatsky than with a more specifically French national yearning for its imagined Celtic and traditionally Roman Catholic roots, smothered, in their view, by secular and materialistic modern sensibilities. Theosophy, “the essence of all doctrines, the inmost truth of all religions” as defined by the doyenne of French Theosophy Maria, Countess of Caithness and Duchess of Medina-Pomar, led Sérusier to seek elemental truth for his art in a remote inland village in Brittany where he painted for many years, to a Benedictine monastery on the Danube where formerly Nazarene artist/monks had created a system of drawing and painting believed to be based on the original design of the universe, and to the widely read text Les Grands Initiés (1899) by the mystic writer, Edouard Schuré. Sérusier's broad-reaching search for the Theosophical roots of art was one aspect of the fin de siècle malaise that led the arts out of the world into dreams.

Affiliations: 1: University of the Arts, Philadelphia


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