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

The Ham

c. 1889
Oil on canvas, 50 x 58 cm
Phillips Collection, Washington

The subject of this still-life may have been influenced by a similar work by Manet, painted in the mid-1870s, which Gauguin would have seen at the home of his friend Degas, from 1888. (The work is now in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow.) Still-life painting had been practiced by Gauguin throughout his career, often when a model was unavailable. He owned a fine example by Cézanne, the Still-Life with Compotier, which he incorporated into the back of a work at this time, the so-called Portrait of a Woman with Still-Life by Cézanne.

Gauguin's work shows a marked break with the conventions of French still-life painting, established in the eighteenth century by Chardin, in which the textures and colours of the foodstuffs depicted were exploited for their sensuous qualities. In contrast, he has refined the objects, simplifying them as far as possible, juxtaposing the arabesques of the table-top and the ham with the verticals of the wallpaper behind.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.