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Artwork of the Month - May-July 2009


Denys Corbet as an Artist

Artist: Denys Corbet (1826-1909)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Status: Guille-Allès Collection
Item No.: GML 1989.1

Denys Corbet - A Centenary

100 years ago on the 21st April 1909 Guernsey-man Denys Corbet, the poet and artist died. The art he produced could be categorised as Naïve art, but this does not necessarily mean that it was unsophisticated as we can see from Corbet's self portrait. There is a directness and honesty about this painting but also great skill and sophistication.

Corbet depicts himself in front of his easel, brush and palette in-hand. This shows us that he wanted to be identified as an artist although he was involved in many other things such as teaching, poetry and even mending clocks. The pose of an artist by his easel has been used for centuries and is a celebration of the artist's profession.

This self portrait also serves as an advertisement for Corbet's skill as a painter. It wasn't uncommon for artists to produce self portraits for this very reason, taking particular care over its execution in order to advertise their skills hoping to attract future commissions.

Naïve Art

It wasn't until the early 20th century that Naïve art was recognised as a specific style of painting. Generally artists classified as Naïve artists were self-taught and it was during the 20th century that some artists began to consciously paint in a childlike and naïve manner.

This rejection of a western academic style was encouraged by many early 20th century Modern artists such as Picasso. They were fascinated by the Naïve and Primitive art which was making its way to Europe from countries such as Africa and South America. This led to an appreciation of all types of Naïve and Primitive art whenever it was made and wherever it came from.

Centenary Commemoration Programme

If you would like to find out more about the life and work of Denys Corbet the Forest Douzaine are holding a programme of events throughout May.

  • 22 May - An illustrated lecture at the Forest School (7.30 pm)
  • 30 May - "Flower Festival" readings of Corbet poetry at the Forest Church (7.30 to 8.30pm)
  • 30 and 31 May - An exhibition of Corbet paintings and memorabilia at the Douzaine Room (2 pm-6 pm both days)
  • 30 and 31 May - Guided walks, starting at the Douzaine Room (2.30pm both days)