On Friday, PJ and I saw Seraphine, a movie about Seraphine Louis, a French painter who lived from 1864 to 1942. Here’s the trailer:

Louis painted in the “naive style” and was discovered by Wilhelm Uhde, who was one of the earliest collectors of works by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Louis was a domestic servant for middle class families when Uhde first saw her one of her still-lifes in 1912. His patronage of her work was interrupted by World War I.  He fled the advancing German army and did not see Louis again until 1927. Uhde then worked to get Louis’s paintings exhibited, and in 1929 she began to see great success. But the Great Depression undercut her ability to sell her work, and in 1932 she was admitted to a mental hospital, where she spent the rest of her life.

Seraphine recounts Louis’s discovery by and subsequent relationship with Uhde. Yolande Moreau plays the title role. Not knowing anything about Louis before seeing this movie made watching Moreau’s performance more interesting, I think. Early in the film, we see that Seraphine isn’t like everyone else. At first, this just seems to be the stereotypical “artist’s temperament.” Later we realize that she’s suffered from mental issues all along. Moreau therefore has the difficult job of conveying to the audience Seraphine’s mental instability without making her seem totally crazy from the get go. I thought she did a great job of making us care about her character. She also gives us a great sense of Louis’s connection of painting as a religious experience.

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