Home > Welcome to Brittany! > Brittany Art and Culture



Brittany Art and Culture

The Celtic race

Who are the Celts? It is understood that by around 9,000 B.C., hunters and fisherman had started inhabiting what is now Britain all the way along to the Baltic Sea, and that these people and other immigrants from the Eurasian continent and North Africa progressively intermixed.
Around 4,000 B.C., relatively civilized people from the east migrated west into Europe and brought cultivation skills and livestock farming with them.
Among the various kinds of people who were living in the region was a group in the northern part of the Alps who were the first to proficiently use iron and to possess a common language.
These are the ancestors of the Celts, recorded by Herodotus, a Greek historian of the 5th century B.C., as "Keltoi".

In the 4th century B.C., these Celtic tribes descended from the Alps and one after another invaded Rome. Further east, they showed their bravery as soldiers in Greece and were known as the Gallics and Galatians. For 500 years during the B.C. era, their activity and their high standard of culture reached their peak and their glory spread all over Europe.
But this bright race never formed a country. They repeatedly invaded Rome, but after Caesar defeated the Celtic Helwety race in 58 B.C., the Celtic strength began to decline. They followed their Roman conquerors and studied Latin, mixing with the Roman people.

In the 5th and 6th centuries, because of the migration of the Germanic race, Celtic people from Wales and Cornwall returned to Bretagne. As a result, the Breton language resembles Cornish. Only the Bretagne region has maintained Celtic culture, largely due to the geographical location as a peninsula.

There were invasions of the Celtic region by the Romans from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D.

The Celtic culture

The ancient Celts were free spirits. This is clear in their frequent movement throughout Europe, in their vivid myths, and in their art. Although they were able to escape from the pressures of other races and repeatedly moved to gain freedom, they never formed a bureaucratic government like the Roman Empire. They never expressed a strong sense of nationhood; rather, their priorities were in their style of warfare. Each soldier fought with passion for individual honor and the protection of family.

The Celtic people were in awe of the natural world, even fearing it. The characteristic holy spirits and gods appear in their many myths: male gods who guard the tribes and a goddess of land and nature.

Despite the impermanence of their lifestyle, the Celtic people had excellent cultivation techniques. They helped to make Europe a place where grains were easily cultivated as well as developing livestock farming techniques. They also had extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs. Their successful agricultural economy brought them wealth, allowing their free spirits to soar. This wealth is obvious in the scale of their grand decorative art, and in the delicate technique of decorative designs on accessories and daily utensils. Above all they employed natural motifs, often symbolic, and avoided straight lines which exist rarely in nature. Although they were of course aware of the realistic style of Roman art, the Celts regarded this kind of artistic form as limited. Their curved lines form fractal and appear to be without beginning, middle and or end.

The Celtic people's free and unrestrained character and their particular tastes emphasize their strong connection to the mysteries of nature. Furthermore, the ancient, intuitive Celts may already have known things that were proven in the last century. These days, people leave their imagination behind in pursuit of science and rationalism. How do the Celtic cultural legacies appear to you?

Modern Art from Brittany

We would like to introduce a young artist, Sophie Darley, living in Brittany.
While keeping in mind the traditional image of Brittany, Sophie Darley depicts young ladies wearing parts of the traditional costume, such as the traditional hat and clogs, in bright pop-art colors mixed with a special touch reminding you of the art of illustration.
Usually the image of women from Brittany is quite tough. However, in her work, Sophie Darley presents an atmosphere with open-minded and cheerful young Breton ladies.
Departing from the conventional image, she shows ladies who are audacious as weel as trendy. You get the impression that the conversations of those lively and beautiful women are centered around men, who, however, are never represented in Sophie Darley's work. In short, you could say that her characters seem naive but are so charming.