Paul Gauguin (1848–1903): The Wine Harvest. Human Misery
Oil on jute sackcloth | 73.5 x 92 cm | 1888
At the end of 1888 Gauguin lived and painted with Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) at Arles in the south of France. They looked for motifs in the surrounding area and Gauguin was especially interested in combining the impressions this made on him with the remembered images within himself. In this picture he painted women in costumes from Brittany – where he had just been staying – but in a vineyard in Arles, while the main figure in the foreground resembles a Peruvian mummy he had seen in Paris.
But the essential thing is not only to trace the sources of Gauguin’s composite motifs. They are a step on his journey of exploration away from a naturalistically painted record of the surrounding world towards a synthetist picture which combines several impressions.
The pictorial idiom is Symbolistic and introverted: it closes off the horizon and moves down into the heaviness – both literal and spiritual – that is the characteristic of the woman in the foreground. As the title suggests, Gauguin’s theme in his picture is fundamental human misery. The melancholy figure and tone of the picture are typical of his work as a whole; as a rule this is not associated with a particular event, but lies as a basic, dominant mood in the pictures.
In his early years Gauguin was influenced by Impressionism, but his work can first and foremost be called Symbolist. When he went to live on Tahiti in 1895 it was as part of a movement away from civilization towards a life based on a dream of Paradise and primitivism. A central characteristic of Gauguin is the questing, experimental nature of both his life and work.
Motifs: Portraits, still lifes, landscapes, pictures with motifs from Brittany and Tahitian motifs.
Read more about Gauguin at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.