Eric Forbes-Robertson 1865–1935
T01825 In the Forest, Pont-Aven c.1895
Inscribed ‘Revesd’enf..(partly obliterated) on back.
Canvas, 27 x 35¿ (68.5 x 85.5).
Purchased from the Leicester Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1973.
Coll: Miss Ida Forbes-Robertson (daughter of the artist); Leicester Galleries.
Exh: Ioème Exposition des Peintres Impressionnistes et Symbolistes, Le Bare de Bouteville, Paris, September 1895, as ‘Revesd’Enfants’; Gallery Group Part Two, Leicester Galleries, August-September 1964 (51) as ‘In The Forest, Pont-Aven’; Summer Exhibition, Leicester Galleries, August–September 1973 (32), as ‘In The Forest, Pont-Aven’; New Year Exhibition, Leicester Galleries, January-February 1974 (25) as ‘In The Forest, Pont-Aven’.
Eric Forbes-Robertson went to Pont-Aven in 1890. ‘In The Forest, Pont-Aven’ was painted there circa 1895. Examination of the back of the canvas revealed the words ‘Revesd’enf.’ presumably in the artist’s hand, but now partly obliterated, which has enabled the painting to be identified as ‘Revesd’enfants’, thought to be lost and one of two works included by Forbes-Robertson in the Tenth Impressionist and Symbolist Exhibition held in Paris at Le Bare de Bouteville in 1895.
The artist appears to have moved the canvas downwards on the stretcher during execution of the work and to have transferred it to a stretcher of deeper dimensions. The top of the existing image retains tack marks previously belonging to a turnover edge, while there is a two-inch painted canvas turnover at the bottom and evidence of the canvas having been cut. It is not known when these changes were made.
Forbes-Robertson stayed at the Villa Julia in Pont-Aven, absorbing the Synthetist and Symbolist art theories of Séguin, Sérusier, Verkade and Gauguin, whose names appear in his sketch books of this period. The simplification of the Breton landscape, the decorative use of line and the bold colouring in this work reveal his sympathies with the Pont-Aven Group, while his motif of dreaming, self-absorbed girls within a forest setting shows his fascination with Pont-Aven mysticism.
From 1894 until the beginning of 1895 Paul Gauguin was in Brittany and it is possible that Forbes-Robertson saw this painting as the Breton counterpart of Gauguin’s Tahitian idylls. The title ‘Révesd’enfants’ suggests that he was familiar with Gauguin’s dictum (published in Echo de Paris, 13 May 1895) ‘Pour faire neuf, il fautre monter aux sources, a l’humanite en enfance.’
Another version of this composition appears in a scrap book of c. 1895–1910 (coll. Victoria & Albert Museum, p.2). It is a process engraving print which was possibly included in La Revue Française Illustrée, to which Forbes-Robertson contributed. In the transference of this image to a black-and-white medium the artist has evolved a more pronounced linearism, which is closer to the art-nouveau style. Other changes involve the diminishing of the forest, which retreats to the distant background and the addition of a stream and butterflies. The greater decorative stylisation suggests that this later version belongs to c. 1896–98.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.