This month, as we find ourselves in the middle of the summer season, we're highlighting a traditional nautical painting by French native Michel Brosseau. Brosseau's original artwork generally focuses on the subtle details of coastal life - the intricate form of a knotted rope or deep folds of a sail, for example. The artist takes a broad view in Alcyon though, a 51" painting of a large sailboat manned by four sailers on open water. Read on to learn more about this original piece, and why we're loving it.
What It's About
Alcyon is a crisply-executed traditional nautical painting, capturing a sailboat as it moves through smooth waters. The artist, Michel Brosseau, was born in Nantes, France, but has since moved to Bordeaux - both of which are located on the Atlantic coast of France and have rich maritime histories, highlighted by prosperous trade with the West Indies in the 18th century. “The scent of cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon still vaguely hangs in these ports today,” says Brosseau. “I strolled the docks between the sugar and rum warehouses,” he says. “And I think it’s this nostalgia for a traditional sea lifestyle that used to fascinate me, and still does.”
Where It Works
Deep earth tones can draw out the subtle umber of the rims of the sailboat, and balance the cool blues and fresh whites in the rest of the composition. So we love Alcyon in with dark, natural-material accents - like wood beams or copper decor, for example. At the same time, Alcyon has a perfectly coastal blue-and-white palette (and obviously subject matter), and so it complements seaside interiors and other airy, contemporary designs beautifully as well.
At 51" wide, this painting is substantial, but not overbearing. It fits nicely above main focal points in a room, like above a fireplace mantle or sofa, but because of the softness of the subject and palette, it integrates itself - simply providing a scene we often long to be looking at all year, but typically only have access to for brief, fleeting moments.
Why We Love It
We love Alcyon in the way we love all of Brosseau's work. The artist, with his detailed approach to painting has a way of bringing not only the aesthetic of coastal life to the viewer, but the sentiment of it as well. In this piece especially, it's not just open waters and endless horizon - it's the sense of energy we get from the sailors, the collaboration between human and nature in the quest to move forward, and the unavoidable sense of exploration of the unknown that comes with a sea-faring life. This piece is a love letter to the coast - and we're on board (pun absolutely intended).
About Michel Brosseau
Brosseau’s education is atypical for a painter—he studied political science as an undergraduate and received a master’s degree in law. Although he painted during and after his years at school, he worked as a journalist and a political activist upon graduating. He could not stay away from his true passion for long, however, and eventually returned to painting full time. From a young age, the sea captivated Brousseau. “My first paintings were devoted to maritime themes mixed with surrealism,” he says.
Paintings from his teenage years depict flying boats or parting waters, like the iconic scene from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film “The Ten Commandments.” As Brosseau developed, his style moved closer to realism. His oil paintings have a distinct look—graphic and contemporary—that he uses to explore the philosophical implications of marine life. “The fascinating part of the sea is that it’s a total and paradoxical universe,” Brosseau says. “There is always the fascination with going out to sea and the anticipation of returning to port.”
While his style is consistent, Brosseau experiments with different techniques and themes. He rarely paints open seascapes and his canvases frequently include animate and inanimate symbols of the nautical world—toiling sailors, faded buoys with chipped paint, weather-battered rowboats. “Maybe I prefer the maritime places, objects, and artifacts of the sea culture to the sea itself because I can tame and control them,” Brosseau says. At the heart of his work is an awareness of the austerity of life—at sea and ashore—and the different ways humanity reacts to nature.
We paired Alcyon with City Lights by Joe Sorge - find the abstract sculpture here.