After moving to Paris from his native Lausanne, Marius Borgeaud discovered Brittany in 1908 and from then on to the end of his life spent several months there every year. La Bretonne qui passe was painted at Le Faouët, in Morbihan, where the artist stayed between 1920 and 1922.
In a modest interior, a seated woman seems to be taking a break from her everyday tasks to eat. Her traditional costume forms an imposing black mass, not devoid of modelling, from which protrudes a length of blue clothing contrasting with the limited chromatic palette used by the artist. Interiors painted by Borgeaud often include an open door or window that alleviates a possible sense of confinement by creating a link with the outside world, which is also the case here. Despite the impression that the objects are pushed towards the beholder due to the flattening of perspective and the raised viewpoint chosen by the artist, the position of the woman, facing the door, guides the gaze outside the room. A second woman, holding a basket, is framed by the doorway, standing out against the light, bright background of the street, which contrasts with the dark interior. Immobile and silent, each seems locked into her personal solitude.
Contrary to many artists who travelled to Brittany looking for new subjects, Borgeaud does not seem to have been interested in picturesque scenes or local monuments. He set out to represent everyday events and settings, with a strong regional character. The crucifix, seen in many of the artist’s canvases, reflects a piety still prevalent in the region. Likewise, hanging on the wall, the print titled Un des héros de Beauséjour (One of the Heroes of Beauséjour) from the Grande Guerre (Great War) series (1915) by Eduardo Garcia Benito recalls the popular engravings decorating public establishments in Brittany, but also found in private homes.
Jacques Dominique Rouiller (ed.), Marius Borgeaud. Une fantastique aventure et la suite du catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, L’Âge d’Homme, 2015: 76-77.
Philippe Kaenel (ed.), Marius Borgeaud, exh. cat. Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, Lausanne, La Bibliothèque des Arts, 2015.