'Séraphine' documents story of art and passion

Many are captivated by the work of the great painters, whose pieces have set the bar, raised the aspirations of future artists and enticed those of us who just wish to sit back and enjoy.

But the stories of the artists themselves – their inspirations, their rise from obscurity, their trials and triumphs – are often much less familiar.

For one French painter, though, this is turning out not to be the case.

Winner of seven Césars, the French Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture and Best Actress, the movie “Séraphine” opens Wednesday, Oct. 28, as part of the Guelcher Film Series.

The film recounts the true story of Séraphine Louis, aka Séraphine de Senlis, played by Yolande Moreau, during World War I and the Great Depression.

On first glance, Séraphine can easily be written off as a simple house cleaner, hardly above notice as she trudges down the streets of Senlis.

A discovery by her employer contradicts this initial observation.
Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), a German art critic and collector and one of the first collectors of Picasso, comes across a small painting of Séraphine’s in his living room.

Uhde is captivated by Séraphine’s brightly colored works of flowers, fruit and nature; he sees in her the potential to be the next great painter.

It is this discovery which launches Séraphine on the path toward fame and fortune, while at the same time creating a touching and unexpected relationship which develops between the two.

But something else is developing in Séraphine’s life, something which could put an end to everything she wishes to accomplish.

“Séraphine” presents a heart-wrenching, beautifully told story of one woman’s artistic and personal journey.

Watching Séraphine grow, both as an artist and as a woman, and the developing relationship between Udhe and her, are perhaps the most engaging aspects of the film.

Séraphine was alone for so long, using nature and her painting as outlets for her faith.

That she was able to find both companionship and recognition for her work, during one of the darkest times in our world’s history, makes her story all the more triumphant, and its end, all the more tragic.

“Séraphine” is presented in French with English subtitles. It will be shown Wednesday, Oct. 28, in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (PAC) at 2:15 and 8:00 p.m.

Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and free for Mercyhurst students with their IDs.