Breton Girls by the sea (1889; France) by Paul Gauguin

Breton Girls by the sea - Paul Gauguin - 1889; France

Artwork Information

TitleBreton Girls by the sea
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1889; France
Art MovementPost-Impressionism

About Breton Girls by the sea

The artwork “Breton Girls by the Sea” is a creation of Paul Gauguin, an eminent figure in the Post-Impressionist movement. Completed in 1889 in France, this oil on canvas portrait reflects the artist’s distinctive style and exploration of color and form, which were integral to this period that sought to transcend the naturalistic depictions of Impressionism.

The artwork depicts two young girls standing side by side against a vividly colored backdrop that suggests a coastal landscape. One girl, who stands slightly forward, has her gaze turned downward, providing a sense of introspection or contemplation. Her companion, positioned just behind her, gently rests her arm across the other’s shoulders in a comforting or protective gesture. The bold, flat areas of color that render their dresses, paired with the strong outlines and simplified forms, are characteristic of Gauguin’s move away from realism and towards a more symbolic and emotionally potent representation of subjects.

Their clothing is rustic and simple, evoking the traditional attire of the Breton region, with patterns and folds depicted in a stylized manner. The use of color is dramatic and non-naturalistic, with the background divided into blocks of green, blue, and red, and a sense of the rugged and lush Breton landscape provided by these intense hues. The girls stand out prominently against this patchwork of saturation, their own earth-toned garments and darker hair tones offering a striking contrast.

Further in the background, one can glimpse the sea, a stretch of beach, and perhaps cliffs or distant hills, which contribute to the sense of place without commanding the viewer’s attention away from the figures. A small bouquet of flowers in the lower right adds a delicate touch of nature to the composition, painted with more detail than other elements, possibly suggesting the fleeting beauty of youth or life. Gauguin’s signature and the date are prominently displayed in the lower area, completing the composition.

Overall, Gauguin’s work masterfully pairs the emotional resonance and simplicity of form, with a daring use of color that encapsulates the innovations of Post-Impressionism. The “Breton Girls by the Sea” remains a testament to Gauguin’s pursuit of deeper meaning and symbolism in art.

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