Authors: Maura Coughlin
Despite their long histories as a culturally valuable commons and sites of biodiversity, the Breton landes were frequently depicted by nineteenth-century authors, travellers and administrators as wild, unproductive wastelands. While the architects of France's ‘interior colonization’ identified such areas as an ugly, infertile expanse to be cleared and put to use, many visual artists were producing a compelling counter-narrative, representing the landes and zones humides as places of beauty and reverie. This article examines the work of artists such as François Blin, Camille Bernier, Alexandre Ségé and Henri Rivière from an ecocritical perspective, arguing that their work contributed to a discourse of preservation by encouraging new ways of seeing the land, not for its extractive utility but as a space of unexpected splendour and enchantment. Far from a regressive form of nostalgia, these images encourage a unique ‘dwelling perspective’ which uses aesthetic beauty to reveal the area's ecological potential and to articulate a call for responsible environmental stewardship.