Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Life of floral artist on film

Heathcote Film Group members gathered at the Mona Lisa Gallery in High St last week to view the 2008 film, Seraphine.

September 24, 2012 4:15am

Seraphine de Senlis, photo by Albert Benoit.

Seraphine, directed by Martin Provost and starring Yolande Moreau as artist Seraphine with Ulrich Tukur as the art critic and discoverer of the artist’s genius, tells the true story of the renown floral artist Seraphine de Senlis from the year 1914 to her death in 1935.

It is a story of contrasts. The setting of rural France is idyllic, though Seraphine’s life is not.

She survives by scrounging her food, her clothes and painting materials, and while her employers are well-off, Seraphine lives in abject poverty.

Her paintings are beautiful and striking, yet she is plain, middle-aged and unkempt.

Surviving as an odd job cleaning lady, Seraphine gains solace from nature and her religion.

‘‘Hard work brings you closer to God,’’ she says.

Seraphine is discovered by a famous art critic in 1914, presenting Seraphine with hope of a better life, but it is not to be.

The great depression pulls the rug from under her feet and the escape from destitution is denied to her.

Unable to cope and finding her faith in God sorely tested, and she ceases painting, never to pick up a brush again.

According to the film, Seraphine died in an asylum for the insane in 1935 after losing all hope, though she in fact lived until 1942 in an annex of the hospital at Villers-sous-Erquery in France.

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