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Seiz Breur (meaning "Seven Brothers" in Breton) was an influential art movement that surged in Brittany (the Celtic region of northwestern France) during the early 1920s, during the Interwar period. The movement was mainly expressed through visual arts and consisted of preserving Breton culture by incorporating it into modern art and aesthetics and revitalizing traditional art techniques from the region. It also had its manifestations on architecture and furniture design. Today, it is recognized as a precessor modern Celtic art in the region of Brittany, although it is sometimes discredited due to its historical controversies.

The group behind this art movement was a collective of many artists, with some of the most notable ones being Paul Ladmirault, Jef Le Penven, Paul Le Flem, Xavier de Langleiz, Jean Freour, Yann Goulet, Francis Renaud, Jules-Charles Le Bozec, Raffig Tullou, James Bouillé and many more. Despite the fact that many people were involved in the art project, at its peak it only had only 15 members. The term "Seiz Breur" itself is derivated from a Breton folk story, and it's a common misconception to assume "Seiz Breur" refers to the number of artists in the movement.

The movement surged as an Avant-garde approach to pop culture and prevalent trends in the fine arts of Brittany, with ideas similiar to the Arts and Crafts Movement. It rejected French centralization and French artistic trends and promoted the idea that Breton art had become 'stagnant' due to the spread of non-Breton art movements and the influence of mass media.

History[]

Cultural Background & Cause[]

The Seiz Breur movement started in Brittany, a region located in northwestern France, which is known for its Celtic heritage and culture. To understand this movement, it's important to know that the region of Brittany used to be a country separate from France, until it was absorbed by the Kingdom of France in the year 1532 and was granted special privileges. The Bretons resisted French centralization for several years, until the French Revolution in 1789. During the French Revolution, the Jacobin faction believed that "France was one and undivisible", and therefore they sought to get rid of all of the "patois" (regional languages) spoken in France, including the Breton and Gallo languages, both historically spoken in the region. Parisian culture was imposed in France as a whole, and it became more centralized than it already was in the past, leading to the endangerment of its indigenous cultures. During the late 18th century, the Romanticism movement became an international tendency in Europe, encouraging Romantic Nationalism in multiple countries and regions, including Brittany. This constitutes the cultural background and cause of the Seiz Breur movement.

History of Seiz Breur[]

The early origins of Seiz Breur can be traced to the works of the artist Jeanne Malivel, who played an important role on the creation of the art movement and was initially the leader of Seiz Breur. Jeanne Malivel is known for her usage of the traditional wood engraving technique in her artworks, as well as illustrating the book L'Histoire de notre Bretagne by writer Jeanne Coroller-Danio. She was an important figure of the movement and although she was a young and aspiring artist, she unfortunately passed away 3 years later after the foundation of Seiz Breur in 1923, and her style and influence was picked up by other artists of the movement, like René-Yves Creston, Suzanne Creston and James Bouillé.

The Seiz Breur movement was founded in 1923 by a group of various Breton artists and intellectuals who sought to promote and revitalize Breton culture. The name "Seiz Breur" translates to "Seven Brothers" in the Breton language and refers to a Breton folklorical story. Its name symbolizes the fact that the movement was born out of a desire to counteract the cultural assimilation imposed by France's centralist policies and to celebrate the unique cultural heritage of Brittany.

In 1925, the group behind the Seiz Breur movement participated on L’Exposition des Arts Décoratifs of Paris.

In 1928, they launch the review Kornog in which the Seiz Breur artists write their theories and ideas. The group stars calling itself Unvaniez Seiz Breur (Union of Seven Brothers), in contrast with the art movement's name.

In 1929, the group participated in an art exhibition in Douarnenez.

In 1931, they replace the Kornog journal with another journal called Keltia.

In 1937, the group participates in the Pavillon de la Bretagne exposition in Paris.

In 1939, World War II stars, causing the mobilization of various members of the art movement. 1 year later, they publish the Programme de Seiz Breur dans un manifeste en 13 points, a book which recopilates their ideas. From 1940 to 1944, various art exhibitions named Eost Breiziz (Breton Harvest), mainly in the cities of Rennes and Paris.

In 1944, things started to go down. Xavier de Langlais replaced René-Yves Creston as the president of the group, and the members started to identify with different political values. Various years later, in 1948, after the Second World War, the group behind this movement broke up due to ideological differences (See Controversy).
Despite the fact the original group was disbanded, it still had an important influence in the region of Brittany and many Breton artists continue to be inspired by their original artworks.

Visuals[]

Seiz Breur surged as a reaction against popular art movements that appeared in Brittany due to the influence of French mass media. The movement aimed to promote Breton traditions and identity through various art forms, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, and graphic design. The movement would combine modern artistic techniques with traditional Breton motifs and craftsmanship, like the ermine, the triskelion or the Celtic knot. Artists of this movement, such as Jeanne Malivel and René-Yves Creston, drew inspiration from the region's folklore, legends, and rural traditions to make their artworks. They incorporated elements of Celtic art, geometric patterns, and monochrome colour palettes into their works. The Seiz Breur movement created its own aesthetic with the goal to combine old Breton art with modern styles, featuring elements such as traditional wood carvings, faience, stoneware, stained glass windows, sculpture, ironwork, cabinetmaking, embroidery, weaving, fresco, illustration, typography, etc., and the usage of new materials, like concrete, and new techniques like photocollage or cinematography. Another important part of the Seiz Breur movement was the fact that it would difuse its artworks in various forms rather than just traditional painting, like book illustrations, postcards, stamps, calendars, jewellery, toys, furniture, cushions, mugs and posters.

Being a really traditional aesthetic, it also drew inspiration from Breton history, Druidism, Religion (Both Christian and Celtic Pagan), maritime life, folklorical legends and Celtic mythology, including Breton, Welsh, Irish and Galician mythology.

Controversy[]

Breakup of the Seiz Breur Group[]

In 1942, the Institut Celtique de Bretagne was founded, which brought together several persons from all over Brittany together to discuss the Celtic heritage of Brittany, as well as promote the Neo-Celtic movement in the region. The artists of the Seiz Breur movement joined the Celtic Institute, and unfortunately the ideologies of the members started to shift. Some members of the movement like Olier Mordrel and Yann Goulet became excessively nationalistic, embracing ideologies like Nazism, hoping that the Nazi Germans could support the Breton independence movement, however that wasn't the original goal of the movement at all. Meanwhile, other members of the group resisted those sentiments and continued to only politically agree with Breton nationalism/patriotism/regionalism or French federalism. These ideological differences between the members eventually led to the breakup of the group in 1948, also discrediting their work due to their bad reputation. However, it's important to note only a few members of the movement were linked to the far-right.

Media[]

Artists[]

  • Xavier de Langleiz
  • Jean Boucher
  • Jeane Malivel
  • René-Yves Creston
  • Jean Freour
  • Yann Goulet
  • Francis Renaud
  • Jules-Charles Le Bozec
  • Raffig Tullou
  • Xavier Haas
  • Robert Micheau-Vernez
  • Pierre Péron

Gallery[]

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