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My main interest in painting is centred round Cubism - not particularly the Cubism of Picasso and Braque but the wider movement which I think goes far beyond what was done in the period just before the First World War. As an extension of this, I got interested in the Benedictine monk, Peter - or, using his monastic name, Desiderius - Lenz, who developed a geometrical-mathematical theory of pictorial construction in the nineteenth century in his monastery in Beuron, South Germany. Lenz's theories were introduced to France, shortly before Cubism appeared on the scene, by Paul Sérusier who was part of what might be described as a second circle of painters revolving round Paul Gauguin. They had little personal contact with Gauguin but were heavily influenced by him. As a result I got interested in Gauguin's immediate circle, and  in particular noticed and liked the work of Charles Filiger.

More recently I got involved in a project of translating writings by Maurice Denis, a close associate of Sérusier's partly hoping to argue that Eastern Orthodox iconography had had a major influence on the beginnings of 'modern art' - the reaction against the highly developed academic realism of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately I was soon convinced that - though of course early Renaissance painting, especially the 'Italian primitives', had been very influential, and this style was in its own day greatly influenced by 'Byzantine' painting - the pioneers of 'modern art' in France in fact had very little direct knowledge of, or interest in, Eastern or Russian Orthodox iconography.

However, the painter whose work most resembled Orthodox iconography was Filiger, in the period when he was most closely associated with Gauguin and his circle. Most of Filiger's work throughout his life (his later work, as we shall see, was very different - still very interesting but in a completely different way) was religious in inspiration and quite conventional in its subject matter. As in icon painting the people he shows are very still - he doesn't paint events or action of any sort. In the early paintings they look directly towards (though not exactly at) the viewer. Even the 'angels' and apparently subsidiary figures in the painting are looking out towards the viewer, not usually at the central figure, the saint, Christ or the Mother of God. They are, for the most part, boys, but they're not the silly little 'putti', or the self consciously beautiful adolescents of Renaissance or Baroque painting. They are very down to earth Breton peasant boys.

I say 'boys' and Filger indeed had several models, but there is one particular face that recurs often, and this is important. The clue to Filiger's early painting I think comes in this comment by someone who knew him while he was living in Paris and studying to become a painter:

'We all knew in the Louvre that wonderful serene Virgin surrounded by angels by Cimabue. The angels, together with the Virgin, all resemble each other perfectly. We looked at it together, Filiger and myself. His eyes shining, he said to me "How Cimabue must have loved it, that head, to repeat it so many times and in such a way."'

Charles Filiger: Christ with Angels, gouache on card, 27 x 25.5 cm, 1892