October 22, 2017
Mahonri M. Young, Ouessant Shepherdess, 1928, oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 29 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
In this highlight from the Museum of Art’s collection, Mahonri Young offers a dramatic view of a hard-working French peasant, who struggles against the intense power of her local landscape. While Young was living in Paris during 1926-27, he made two trips to the Île d’Oussant, off the coast of France. Unlike the villages of Brittany which were crowded with artists during the summer months, few had discovered the island. For the first time in his career he concentrated on coastal scenes and worked almost exclusively with the female figure. This was a change for the artist who was used to paining laborers and Native Americans with heroic grandeur as archetypal Americans. Still, connections can be found between a heroic American archetype and this French peasant who is heroic in her perseverance. Blown by powerful winds, hemmed in by the raging sea, she carries out her work day after day. But this is no drab affair for Young, who fills this picture with rich colors in celebration of the dynamic landscape.