By the Sea (1892; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

By the Sea - Paul Gauguin - 1892; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleBy the Sea
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1892; French Polynesia
Dimensions67.9 x 91.5 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism

About By the Sea

The artwork “By the Sea” is a genre painting by the French artist Paul Gauguin, created in 1892 while he was in French Polynesia. The piece is rendered in oil on canvas and measures 67.9 cm by 91.5 cm. It represents the Cloisonnism art movement, which is characterized by bold outlines and flat areas of color.

The artwork captivates with its vibrant colors and a scene that seems to capture a moment of everyday life in French Polynesia. From the foreground, where a stretch of earth is adorned with bright purple and mustard yellow shapes resembling plant life, the viewer’s gaze moves towards the main subjects—two figures situated by the edge of the water. The figure on the right is seated, facing away from the viewer, and appears deeply engrossed in an activity, possibly weaving or holding a container filled with yellow fruit or objects. The contours of the body are pronounced, with a strong emphasis on the sculptural quality of the form.

On the left, the second figure is a flurry of motion, rendered in a vibrant yellow that stands out against the lush background. This figure seems to be playing or interacting dynamically with the environment, perhaps splashing in shallow water. Behind them, another figure in the middle ground engages in an activity under the shade of trees and next to a hut or structure, suggesting a communal setting or a glimpse into daily communal activities.

The painting’s background harmonizes green hues and hints of blue, suggesting a body of water and rich, verdant vegetation. Gauguin’s characteristic use of stark outlines to demarcate figures and objects from their surroundings, as well as the application of flat, unmodulated color areas, demonstrates his departure from the naturalism of his Impressionist contemporaries, embracing a more symbolic and emotionally resonant form of expression that would influence the development of modern art.

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