Séraphine Louis, also known as Séraphine de Senlis, is the subject of this intense biopic—both inspirational and tragic—of a relatively unknown but brilliant artist who teetered between one reality and another. Her paintings were the product of creative and spiritual rapture, induced by spirits, and her love for nature. She was employed as a housekeeper doing the most menial labor and thought by the people around her to be quite odd and slow. But at night she disappeared into another world and turned out extraordinary works using pigments she made herself from unusual sources.
Her break came when Wilhelm Uhde, German art dealer and critic, saw a painting at his neighbor’s home and was astounded to discover that it had been done by his cleaning lady. At a time when avant garde artists such as Picasso and Rousseau were coming on the scene, Uhde became Séraphine’s sponsor encouraging her and finally including her in a show that he organized of the Sacred Heart Painters. Sadly, his patronage would come to an end with the advent of World War II. Séraphine became increasingly isolated and was finally committed to a hospital for the mentally ill. She passed in 1942.
Few of her paintings survive but some may be viewed here. This is the story of a woman who found deep meaning in life and was unusually resourceful, even in the face of periodic ridicule and little support, save one person who proved to be her angel.
This haunting film was a sleeper when it came out in 2009 but later won seven French Academy Awards. Streaming on Amazon. In French with subtitles. Yolande Moreau stars as Séraphine. Film directed by Martin Provost and co-written with Marc Abdelnour.