(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, French Polynesia)

Still-Life with Horse's Head

Oil on canvas, 49 x 39 cm
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo

In the late summer of 1885 Gauguin travelled to London on business and this painting may have been produced during that trip. The work is quite unique in his oeuvre, and seems to represent a self conscious attempt at fusing the ingredients of different cultures, worked in an avant-garde style. The horse's head is borrowed from the Elgin Marbles, on display in the British Müseum, and coupled with Japanese fans and a puppet of the type that were popular in Paris at the time. Such plunderings from non-Western sources was later to become commonplace in Gauguin's work, when he used them deliberately to attempt to create a 'primitive' flavour. However, it is the handling of the work that makes it unique, for the loose brushwork of earlier Impressionist style paintings has been systematized into the pointillist technique used by Seurat and Signac at this time. Gauguin has rejected the methods of the Impressionists and attempted to paint in the manner of the most advanced Parisian artists.

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