National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Haystacks in Brittany Paul Gauguin (artist)
French, 1848 - 1903
Haystacks in Brittany, 1890
oil on canvas
overall: 74.3 x 93.6 cm (29 1/4 x 36 7/8 in.) framed: 96.5 x 115.6 x 7.6 cm (38 x 45 1/2 x 3 in.)
Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman
1972.9.11
Not on View
From the Tour: Paul Gauguin
Object 4 of 8

This stylized view of fields and farm buildings near Le Pouldu is typical of the so-called synthétiste works that Gauguin painted in Brittany in 1890. Its forms are simplified, abstracted to their essence. In 1888, Gauguin had defined his goal as " . . . synthesis of form and color derived from the observation of only the dominant element."

The friezelike procession of cows and cowherd in the foreground coaxes our eye to move horizontally, and we find that the entire composition is arranged into bands, layered one on the other. Even the sky is stratified. Strong contrasts of dark and light—exploited especially in the black-and-white cows and the flowering crops—flatten forms, rendering them more decorative than descriptive. The vivid and unexpected oranges in the foreground do not mimic nature but cast it according to the artist's imagination. Notice how the silhouette of the cow at right is outlined against the orange with dark blue. In many places similar outlines compartmentalize colors, in the manner of cloisonné enamels or stained glass. This was a style Gauguin had evolved with fellow artist Emile Bernard. It grew out of Bernard's interest in medieval art and Gauguin’s own fascination with Japanese prints.

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