Palm BeachGaston Sébire: The Normande Impressionist Master, Celebrating the Artist’s 100th Anniversary
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I remember well the crisp sunny Normandy day in the late fall of 1978 when I first visited Gaston Sébire with his lovely family at their Chateau in Normandy. He was charming and warm in his excitement to have Wally Findlay and me as his guests. Of course, we had to have a glass of his special Bordeaux from his wine cellar to celebrate while he explained his most recent works, canvas by canvas.
The collection of paintings Wally and I viewed at sébire’s studio were scheduled for a vernissage exhibition in our Chicago gallery for the spring of 1979. The recent paysage paintings were rich in deep summer colors of greens, tans, yellows, and reds. His beach paintings of Deauville and Trouville were spacious with warm, healthy hues of blue seas playing with the shorelines. His impressionist manner of figures were dashes of colorful forms bringing together movement. His landscape compositions were formidable and reminiscent of the great Impressionist Masters of whom he dearly admired and who inspired his style and signature of timeless painting. Often they would capture the moody whims and turbulence of seasonal weather. Perhaps the most spectacular works to come from Sébire’s studio would be his robust mid-career impressionist florals. Inspired by Monet’s arrangements of massive bouquets, Sébire became a master of the spontaneous creation of six-foot-high, glorious bouquets. He captured the very essence of fragrance and color. There are many Sébire bouquet paintings in recognized impressionist collections around the world.
Sébire was recognized by the French Government with many impressive awards and titles during his lifetime. The late President of France, Jacques Chirac, a great admirer of Sébire’s work, would often give one of his paintings as a gift from the people of France to visiting dignitaries.
– James R. Borynack, Chairman & CEO, Findlay Galleries
“The works of Sébire without a doubt leave a lasting impression. Love of work well done by a master of his art. Recognized by his peers for the acuity of his eye, the exceptional precision of his brush, Sébire expresses himself with his palette and mixture of colours, and in a single movement creates, fixes and corrects a beauty which is timeless. In the presence of this art, which resounds like a profession of faith; the devotee will be able to discern the truth and say, now that’s a painter.”
– Jacques Chirac, President of France
Sébire was a complex man. In his persona, there was room for both a master maritime painter and a man of the land capturing Normandy’s environs and forests. For Sébire, the land didn’t stop at the edge of the trees; Sébire’s land was crisscrossed by rivers and included his beloved beaches. Beginning with a fascination for Normandy’s historic beaches, Sébire went on to paint every French coast and capture the beauty of the Spanish coast, where he would often summer.
On these historic Normandy beaches, where the Impressionist Masters found their inspiration and later Allied soldiers would fight for the world’s freedom, Sébire found the simple and yet crucial rhythm of everyday life – a life of memorable holidays, of playful afternoons shared by families and loved ones. Sébire’s beaches are filled with people and joy, capturing their essence with his magnificent eye and incomparable brushstroke. These en plein air works evoke life lived in the moment, invitations from a man who witnessed a world war and still believed in the beauty of outdoor life and its power to inspire a better world.
Sébire was a strong and sturdy man, a man of the land who belonged wholeheartedly to his beloved Normandy. His work reflected those qualities, filled with confidence and elevated by a remarkable sensitivity for the small and essential. His choice of subject revolves around the song of the earth, of trees and mineral life, cliffs and forests, beautiful landscapes, and villages where ‘life is good.’
The art critic Pierre Imbourg, summed up Sébire’s paintings, noting, “He shows us the profound richness of life and nature. His still lifes, his flowers, his marines filled with strength and sobriety, are all overflowing with eloquence.”
(1920 – 2001)
The Normande Impressionist Master
Gaston Sébire, born in Saint-Samson (Normandy) in 1920, is recognized as one of France’s leading landscape and marine painters. Like a true Norman, Sébire was silent and solitary by nature, with a personality strong and frank like his paintings. Self-taught, he had his first exhibition in Paris in 1952 and was honored by various awards:
The Prix de la Critique • The Prix Casa Velázquez
The Greenshields Prize • The Gold Medal of the Salon des Artistes Français The Medal of Honor of the Salon de la Marine
In 1975, he received one of France’s highest awards – the Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite – the Legion of Honor’s civilian equivalent. Sébire exhibited regularly in the major Paris salon shows, but Paris was not Sébire’s preferred milieu. He was a man firmly attached to the earth, and after the Paris exhibitions, he would return to Rouen to plunge himself again into painting.
Sébire also exhibited in Germany and Great Britain and marked his first solo exhibition in the United States at our New York galleries in 1964, from then on, he was exclusively represented by Findlay Galleries.
When Danish and Norwegian Vikings arrived at the coast of what is known today as Normandy, they came with a sophisticated understanding of the sea. Over the centuries that followed, deep respect and understanding of these traditions became a central part of Normandy’s life and culture.
Gaston Sébire was born into a world where festivals, regattas, and museums are dedicated to celebrating the sea, its bounty, it’s way of life, and its people. It is no surprise that Sébire found a thematic home for his paintings in the vessels that populate the French and Spanish coasts. As a plein air painter with a swift and confident brushstroke, Sébire was the perfect artist to capture the spontaneity of sailing along with the rhythms of the sea.
His paintings of sailboats and other vessels are insightful and accurate; his aim was in the truest of Impressionists spirits, to capture what it was like to be there. To observe the flags wave and flap in the wind, to see the sails fill with wind and smoothly carry others towards their destinations.
In 1973 Gaston Sébire received Peintre de la Marine (French Navy), a title awarded by the French Minister of Defense to artists who have devoted their talents to the sea, the French Navy, and other maritime subjects. Sébire carried with pride this accolade by including the now well-known anchor after his signature.
Jardins et fleurs
Sébire’s representations of flowers and their arrangements present the viewer with balanced compositions in which the principle of floral design has been carefully considered. Through his dedication to floral painting, Sébire could transcend some of the factors that defined his work as an en plein air landscape painter, namely, time and space. His work is a faithful representation of the moment, the arrangement, and the flowers in all their changing states within his precious and carefully selected vases.
Much like fireworks, Sébire’s floral paintings are explosions of color into space, filled with movement and energy. The magic in Sébire’s paintings is how he can capture an abundance of energy and movement, and present it with profound elegance and subtlety. His compositions are dynamic enough to appeal to those attracted by a more contemporary vision, while the complexity and variety of his arrangements reach the hearts of those who revel in more traditional styles.
Gaston Sébire | La plage | oil on canvas | 28 4/4 x 19 11/16 in. | FG© 138593