of young painters who espousedthe style known as Synthetism and
Gauguin's informal tutelage at Pont-Aven,
Brittany, France, in the summer of 1888. The artists included
Bernard Emile, Charles Laval, Maxime Maufra,
Charles, Meyer de Haan, Armand Seguin, and Henri de Chamaillard.
Gauguin and Bernard were the first to reject Impressionist and
pointillist techniques in favour of Synthetist methods. The
paintings executed by these artists in the years between 1886, when
they first met at Pont-Aven, and 1888 show an overall
simplification, a highly expressive use of colour, and an intensely
spiritual approach to their subject matter. In their Breton
landscapes, Gauguin and Bernard employed bright areas of colour
surrounded with heavy, darkoutlines that give the painted surface
the appearance of medieval enamel and stained-glass work. The
content of their paintings often derived from the everyday life of
the Breton people.
Gauguin's disciples, enthusiastically accepting his advice not to
paint exclusively from nature, gradually abandoned the
Neo-Impressionist styles that they had adopted in Paris. In their
revolt against naturalism, the early Synthetist painters emphasized
the decorative potentials of colour and line: a painting was to be
primarily a flat surface upon which colour was laid ornamentally.
The Swallow-Hole in the Bois d'Amour, Pont Aven, or The Talisman
(1888), painted by Paul Sérusier under the direct guidance of
Gauguin, became the talisman of the young disciples. Gauguin had
instructed Sérusier not only to paint the landscape from memory but
to be certain to paint the different-coloured areas as intensely as
possible. Upon the return of the Pont-Aven school to Paris in the
fall of 1888, the members met regularly to discuss new developments
in French art, particularly Symbolism. In 1889 Gauguin arranged an
important exhibition of Impressionist and Synthetist art that
featured his own and others' works.
At one point in the existence of the Pont-Aven school, the idea of
an artistic and communal society had seemed feasible, but, once
Gauguin left for Tahiti, members of the original group abandoned
their hopes for this to materialize. These artists became
increasingly involved in the development of Symbolist art theories
and techniques. Artists such as Sérusier eventually became active in
the Académie Julian and in the group of artists known as the Nabis.