This is a fascinating story of a real woman artist in the early 20th century. A religious cleaning woman, she was told to paint by the angels. She assiduously collected and ground her own pigments, painting at night after very hard days scrubbing; she was discovered by an avant garde art critic that she cleaned for. This gentleman (who had also discovered Rousseau) takes an interest and becomes her patron.
I have two favorite scenes in this film. One is the art critic at an exhibition passing by all the conventional work with barely a glance, searching for and at last locating Seraphine’s uniquely authentic but more abstracted work. Seeing someone (even in a movie) recognize genuine expression as more valid than parroted (lovely but safe) paintings was enormously satisfying for me. The other scene I loved was when a delighted Seraphine presented her work to a procession of her friends, who were dubious at best. Here she claims demurely, “I paint now, which is a different kind of love.”
If only we didn’t have to watch this artist’s slow decent into mental illness! I wish that someone who is responding to angels as she paints wouldn’t be proven to be crazy. As one that considers myself also an unconventional but extremely authentic painter, responding through prayer as I paint, I do not care for this ending at all, however true and well depicted it was! To paint with the passion and intensity of Seraphine or Van Gogh, and remain stable of mind: fortunately I do believe this is possible.
Filmed in French, with easy to follow sub-titles, I give this film four stars.