I stumbled upon a catalogue of Séraphine Louis's paintings the other day and was astonished by the power and intensity of her work. I had never before heard of her. I discovered that an award-winning film of her life had recently been made by Martin Provost and so bought the DVD. 'Séraphine' stars Yolande Moreau in the eponymous role and Ulrich Tukur as Wilhelm Uhde, the art dealer, who is the first to appreciate Séraphine's talent. Both actors turn out understated but extremely moving performances. Here is a review.
Séraphine Louis became known as 'Séraphine of Senlis'. Senlis is a town just north of Paris (I have passed through Senlis, but my only memory of it is stopping to allow a man with a macaque on a lead to cross the road; not Nerval and his lobster, but not bad for a Monday morning).
Wilhelm Uhde, by Robert Delaunay (1907)
Wilhelm Uhde met Séraphine Louis in 1912 when she was 48. It was a chance meeting; she worked as a cleaner in a house he stayed in. Uhde was quick to recognise her genius.
She could turn a bunch of leaves into a riotous constellation;
Or make a tree burn with life;
She could make 'still' lives seethe...
... and recreate a 'Bunch of Grapes' like no other;
She was motivated by an idiosyncratic religious fervour. It's easy to see how Uhde saw in her work parallels to Van Gogh.
Eventually her visions became all consuming and she ended her days in a mental asylum where she was never to paint again.