Christmas night (1894; Pont-aven, France) by Paul Gauguin

Christmas night - Paul Gauguin - 1894; Pont-aven, France

Artwork Information

TitleChristmas night
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1894; Pont-aven, France
Art MovementPost-Impressionism

About Christmas night

The artwork “Christmas night,” also known as “The Blessing of the Oxen,” was created by the artist Paul Gauguin in 1894 while he was in Pont-Aven, France. This painting belongs to the Post-Impressionism movement, a period characterized by its reaction against Impressionists’ concern for the naturalistic depiction of light and color. This particular piece is executed in oil on canvas and is categorized as a genre painting, which depicts scenes from everyday life.

In “Christmas night,” Gauguin presents a mystical and atmospheric scene filled with symbolic content. The composition captures a moment on a snowy Christmas Eve with a church spire silhouetted against the dimming light of the sky. We see several figures, including women who appear to be in contemplation or perhaps movement, enveloped in the soft purples and blues that dominate the painting’s color palette. In the forefront, a group of oxen commands attention, emphasizing the connection between the sacred and the terrestrial. A striking feature is the large, round structure on the right—possibly a fountain or a part of a religious shrine—which is adorned with carvings of figures, possibly saints or other ecclesiastical figures, enhancing the work’s spiritual resonance.

Gauguin’s style is evident in the bold outlines, the juxtaposition of flat areas of color, and the overall abstract quality of the forms. These elements combine to create a sense of solemnity and introspection, inviting viewers to delve into the deeper meanings and narratives that may lie beneath the surface of this captivating night scene.

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