Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Gauguin recognized this painting as a significant breakthrough toward a more imaginary style that moved painting away from naturalism. The picture shows a group of Breton women witnessing a scene from Genesis, in which Jacob is locked in violent struggle with an angel. A large tree trunk divides the canvas into two parts: the real world of the women and the visionary, supernatural world of Jacob and the angel, painted against a brilliant red background. As Gauguin explained in a letter to Vincent van Gogh, "For me in this picture the landscape and the struggle exist only in the imagination of the people in prayer inspired by the sermon, which is why there is a contrast between the life-size people, who are natural, and the struggle in its non-natural, disproportionate landscape."