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

Breton Girls by the Sea

Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

By the time he painted this work, Gauguin had exhausted the possibilities for 'savage' representations of Breton life at Pont-Aven, which was becoming increasingly commercialised. In July and August of 1889 and again in October he went to the more remote area of Le Pouldu, in an attempt to recapture the more exotic aspects of Breton life in his work. This canvas demonstrates the kind of ambivalence that he experienced at this time. The subject is as picturesque as Four Breton Women, and as such would have appealed to a Parisian audience who subscribed to the myth of the remote, archaic way of life in Brittany. At the same time, however, he has deliberately made the image more crude and less immediately appealing by grossly enlarging the children's coarse feet and giving them baleful expressions. He has also attempted to create a strong, forceful image, with the two interlinked bodies against a colourful, simplified background.

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