In 1886, Puigaudeau made his first visit to the quiet seaside village of Pont-Aven. There he booked a room at Gloanec's, a popular hotel for artists on a budget. It so happens that Paul Gauguin was also making his first visit and staying at the same hotel. Puigeaudeau, along with a small number of aspiring artists were in a wholly unique position of observing and working alongside one of the most important painters of the late nineteenth century. Inspired by their contact with Gauguin, a number of these artists created a quite radical movement in painting. They call themselves the Nabis, the Hebrew word for Prophet.
Puigaudeau adopted some of the tenets of this new mode such as heightened palette, simplified forms and a vigorous brushwork that is reminiscent of pointillism. He had a passion for the subtitles of light in any form. His garden views and paintings of his home in Kervaudu are imbued with a warm light and freshness of color. Puigaudeau began these paintings sometime around 1907 when he and his family rented the manor depicted in this particular painting from M. Lebreton de Fontenelle. He would remain here until his death on September 15th, 1930.
Because of Kervaudu's location on a peninsula, the area attracted many artists to Nantes. Thus Puigaudeau found himself surrounded by his old friends, Emile Dezaunay, Alexis de Broca and Donatien Roy; and the group would regularly set forth onto the country-side on painting excursions. From 1910 to 1914, Puigaudeau happily criss-crosse through the countryside endlessly painting the sunsets on the sea and windmills.
He developed close relationships with Gauguin, Degas, Rysselberghe, Ensor and Bernard. Degas affectionately referred to Puigeaudeau as the Hermit of Kervaudu.
In Le Chemin du Jardin du Kervaudu (The Path to the Garden of Kervaudu), Ferdinand du Puigaudeau pays homage to the pastoral residence his family owned in Le Croisic, France, known as the manor of Kervaudu. Much like the soft afternoon light that illuminates the composition, however, the family's happiness was fleeting. World War II would soon see the artist's friends sent to the battle front; a dishonest client, M. Perrouin, would all but rob him of nearly sixty paintings before going bankrupt in 1918; and du Puigaudeau's daughter Odette's move to Paris in 1920 would prove emotionally devastating. Nevertheless, Le Chemin du Jardin du Kervaudu presents to the viewer a bucolic memory inscribed within the carefree lightness of a spring afternoon. It is a prime example of du Puigaudeau's comprehensive mastery of color and atmospheric effect. The artist's brushstrokes provide evidence of his Pointilist training, but his ethereal palette betrays his infatuation with the Impressionist aesthetic. Using gentle harmonies of color to translate the symbolism and poetry of nature to his canvases, Puigaudeau would often depict the same landscapes at different times of day in order to capture their unique temporal brilliance.
Sale: Brest, France, 13 December 1987
Alanna Rathbone Fine Art, New Canaan, CT
Laurentin, Antoine, Ferdinand du Puigaudeau (1864-1930), Vol. 1, Editions Thierry Salvador: Paris, 1989. ill. p. 294, no. 92.