Paul Gauguin
Breton Peasant Women

Breton Peasant Women
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Breton Peasant Women
1894
Oil on canvas
H. 66; W. 92.5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Paysannes bretonnes [Breton Peasant Women]


Back in Pont Aven between two trips to Tahiti, Gauguin enjoyed working on the naïve, rural subjects which had inspired him before he left for the Pacific. But his experience of Polynesia shows through in his paintings of Brittany. His figures take on a monumental dimension. Their sturdy outlines suggest the fullness of the Oceanic nudes, from whom they have borrowed a few morphological features such as their massive hands and feet or prominent cheekbones.
Fringing this picture of two Breton women chatting in a field of harvested wheat there is a lively landscape. A man bent double is busy working the soil. Behind him, two women are walking past. Farm buildings, surrounded by tall trees, hem in the horizon.

All the motifs, except for the foliage behind the women, are surrounded by a black outline characteristic of Gauguin's Cloisonnisme. He fills the outlines with small touches lightly laid on the canvas. This process gives substance to the various parts of the composition such as the weave of the aprons. The simplified forms interlock to structure the space. Their arrangement gives a tonic rhythm to the countryside whose ordinariness is magnified by the use of bright colours. Gauguin has sacrificed half-tints in favour of a brilliant palette, dominated by yellows, reds, greens and blues.

Brittany in the colours of Polynesia expresses his nostalgia for the island, as he confided in his friend Monfreid: "In December, I will go back to Paris and I will work every day to sell everything I own… Once I have the capital, I will be off to the Pacific… Nothing will stop me from leaving and it will be for good."




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