Self Portrait
Oil on canvas
Self Portrait With Palette (c.1980)
81x81cm Oil on canvas


Unlike Gauguin, Serusier or Emile Bernard I did not seek out Brittany as a refuge from the more prosaic aspects of modern life. Nor was my going a conscious step, as it was in theirs, in developing a new and simple visual language midst a more fundamental culture. No, by the simple act of marriage I found myself an adopted son of a land strategic in the evolution of modern art, a secret garden where nature conspires in an endless drama! – A land of granite, a mighty ocean and a vast sky.

Here the players who tend this garden or venture out onto the wild seas that surround it, are cast in a similar mould. These stalwart characters, sun drenched and blasted by wind and rain, are as integral to the spectacle as the black and white cow or the cathedral-like, rose coloured cumulus that gathers up on the horizon. This splendid union of man and nature is further harmonized by a dazzling light which can lend humble, pastoral activity an epic grandeur; Jours de Fetes, Kermesse or Pardon when bathed in this light are elevated to pageants of theatrical splendour.

The Yellow Apron (c.1985)
48x63 cm, Pastel and chalk on paper
Green Fishing Boat In Breton Harbour (c.1980)
50x63 cm, Watercolour and gouache on paper


Nor is the heart left unmoved – what serious artist with any spiritual values could remain indifferent to the hard existence cruel nature exacts on the inhabitants of this often inhospitable peninsula. Aware of their temporal and vulnerable status, solace is found in religious ardour. The ubiquitous Calvaire or chapel spire, moss-covered and disfigured by the elements, silhouetted against grey stormy skies, testify to that devotion with touching eloquence. Only the windswept Tamaris which shares the dramatic skyline, hints at the stubborn defiance that also exists in the Breton spirit. Unsubdued by a cruel history – and proud of the fact – the poet in the Celtic soul allowed it to inspire a vigorous culture rich in folklore, music and art.

Only a mindless sceptic would not concede that fate had dealt me a generous hand. A whole way of life, picturesque and idyllic, lay before me; a visual feast, infinitely varied; from market place to kitchen table; from rural setting, where in the fields the peasant still toils, to the fishing port and the fisherman mending his nets. Here the reservoirs are replenished and here each year I commune with nature face to face – art after all can only be inspired by life and as Vincent Van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo – “No one loves life more than artists”.

Since most of the year is spent working indoors, those annual visits are crucial - the lifestyle of a comparative recluse is exchanged for a much more gregarious existence. Here, as well as work there is living to be done and it has been my good fortune each summer to wed the two, hopefully to their mutual advantage. In any event, I have always lived through my art and in a sense to really taste life to the full I am obliged to put a line around it. Since early childhood this has been my lot, everything which excited my imagination had to be set down in pictorial terms, a magic world where a different language helps explore and explain as well as heighten the experience of living.

Alexander Goudie


Excerpted from the essay ‘Goudie by himself’ in ‘Goudie’s Brittany’. Published 1992