Bretons and cows (1889; France) by Paul Gauguin

Bretons and cows - Paul Gauguin - 1889; France

Artwork Information

TitleBretons and cows
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1889; France
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationAlbertina, Vienna, Austria

About Bretons and cows

The artwork titled “Bretons and cows” is a creation by Paul Gauguin, a renowned Post-Impressionist artist. It was crafted in 1889 in France and is executed in watercolor on paper. The style of the work is indicative of a sketch or study, capturing a moment in time with a certain immediacy that is characteristic of such preparatory works. This piece is part of the collection held at the Albertina in Vienna, Austria, where it is preserved and displayed.

As for the artwork itself, it showcases a pastoral scene, likely inspired by Gauguin’s stays in Brittany, France. The composition features a sparse landscape with cows and figures that appear to be Breton peasants, identified by their traditional clothing. The lines are loose, fluid, and expressive, typical of a sketch that aims to capture the essence of a scene rather than its detailed likeness. The use of watercolor provides a sense of color and atmosphere but retains a sense of transparency and lightness that often characterizes studies or preliminary works.

In the foreground, one can see a cow in profile, with rapid, gestural strokes that define its form and movement. There are human figures as well: one, to the left, is seemingly observing the scene, possibly a herder, while another, to the right, appears to be in motion carrying a basket, suggestive of rural life and daily chores. Additionally, the artwork contains sketches of other animals and an outline which might indicate the artist was experimenting with placement and scale.

Despite the brevity of detail, the watercolor effortlessly conveys a mood and captures the natural, rural setting that Gauguin was often drawn to during his career. The signature “P.G.” in the bottom right corner finalizes the authenticity of this work by Gauguin’s own hand.

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