Surrealist painter Eileen Agar visited
in 1936 with her husband. Inspired by the rock formations and the example of her friend Paul Nash, who had photographed the stones at Avebury and Brittany Stonehenge, Agar bought a Rolleiflex and began taking tightly framed images of the rocks. According to Tacita Dean, these photographs “deny the landscape” but trap the rocks’ “creatural intensity” (see the catalogue to Dean’s exhibition An Aside). Whilst it is possible to see the Rocks at Ploumenac’h, Brittany as beautiful abstract shapes, it is equally open to follow the Surrealists in re-imagining the landscape by thinking up identities or associations for these strange stones. So when is it OK to anthropomorphise the landscape? Perhaps when the artist doesn’t do it explicitly, but the work invites this kind of response from the viewer.
There is an informative ‘Tate Papers’ essay on the photographs by Ian Walker, ‘The 'Comic Sublime': Eileen Agar at Ploumanac'h’.
draws parallels between these natural rock forms and both the sculptures of Henry Moore and the Surrealist landscape art of Graham Sutherland. However, he also notes a possible influence from the continental artists who had exhibited with Agar in the International Surrealist Exhibition in Walker that year: Yves Tanguy, who had spent childhood summers in Brittany, and Salvador Dali, who was inspired by the coastal scenery of Cadaqués. Agar’s photographs may in turn have inspired artists she showed them to, including Paul Nash himself, e.g. in his photograph Monster Field. Finally, in 1985 Agar herself used the images as source material for a series of paintings called Objects from a Landscape. London
Paul Nash Monster Field, 1938Source: Tate Gallery - public domain (image added 2017)