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Although Filiger originally came from a comfortably off family in Alsace, he lived most of his life in poverty in Britanny, and André Cariou, former director of the Museum in Quimper, in Britanny, has put together an important collection of his work. Cariou has only recently published a major, well illustrated book - Charles Filiger, Correspondance et sources anciennes, Locus Solis 2019.

One of Filiger's correspondents was a Dutch painter called Jan Verkade. Verkade came from a family of Mennonites but like many people interested in painting or poetry in the late nineteenth century, he found himself strongly attracted to Roman Catholicism. He joined the Catholic Church in 1892 and in 1894 he became a monk, entering the monastery of Beuron to become a disciple of Father Desiderius.

Verkade wrote an autobiography - Le Tourment de Dieu - published in 1926 and in it he gives a description of Filiger under the fictional name Drathmann (Filiger was still alive in 1926 but living in near total obscurity and many of his earlier friends and colleagues thought he was dead). In Verkade's account, Filiger/Drathmann:

'was one of those unhappy beings who, sometimes, under the weight of heredity, cannot prevent themselves from doing what afterwards they regret deeply, reproaching themselves. More and more discontent and troubled over their weaknesses they end up taking vengeance on themselves and on society, giving themselves up to the worst excesses and seeking to drag along with themselves others to their fall, but this only contributes to their own suffering which grows continually. These are people who suffer terribly but in pure loss because their sense of their own dignity and their pride remain intact and often it is only in their last hour that, from the depths of their despair, they throw out to God that cry which, against all expectations, opens to them the doors of Heaven ... As they feel they lack strength they turn to drugs, to alcohol, to morphine, to opium because it is unbearable for them, after the exaltation they have experienced from the will to create, to feel so lacking in life, so poor in spirit. They want to feel life again and so they drink, shout, rage and quarrel ...'
This dramatic account seems to derive from a visit Verkade paid to Filiger shortly before he joined the Catholic Church, in the inn where Filiger was living, La Buvette de la Plage, in Le Pouldu. This was the inn Gauguin stayed in and the walls were decorated with paintings by Gauguin and his friends. This 'Guardian Angel' was Filiger's contribution:

Charles Filiger: Angel with garland, gouache on plaster, 36x71cm, 1892

Verkade indicates that this visit was a last effort to find reasons for not joining the Catholic Church, reasons which Filiger was willing to provide. He says he went to visit 'Drathmann' without telling the priest whom he was consulting 'to once again pass eight days in Marie Poupée's Inn where there was always a good time to be had by everyone. "The desire to become a Catholic will surely end up going away", I said to myself.'

Drathmann's conversation seemed to be having the desired effect:

'For him, bourgeois and moral barriers didn't exist. He had only one concern - to create something beautiful. Drathmann's ideas tended, perhaps unknown to himself, to celebrate painting as a goddess, a goddess whom one thinks about day and night, for whom, at least from time to time, one will work to exhaustion, for whom one would be willing to die of hunger ...

'So, cigarette or pipe in my mouth, a bottle within reach, the stomach well satisfied and, most of the time, stretched out limply at length, my days passed very pleasantly [fort gaiement]. But something very serious nearly occurred. One day as we were plunged deep in conversation, temptation came upon us, but it was crude, it offended our aesthetic feelings, and that saved us ...'