Fire by the water (1886; Pont-aven, France) by Paul Gauguin

Fire by the water - Paul Gauguin - 1886; Pont-aven, France

Artwork Information

TitleFire by the water
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1886; Pont-aven, France
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationThyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain

About Fire by the water

The artwork “Fire by the water,” painted by Paul Gauguin in 1886 at Pont-Aven, France, is a distinguished piece rendered in oil on canvas. Gauguin, a pivotal figure in the Post-Impressionism movement, chose a landscape genre for this work. The painting can be appreciated at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Spain, where it adds to the diverse tapestry of art movements and styles housed within the institution.

In the artwork, the viewer encounters a juxtaposition of nature and human activity. The scene is set alongside a body of water, possibly at dusk or dawn, given the muted tones of the sky and the water’s subtle luminescence. A spectrum of colors, ranging from cooler blues and greens to warm amber tones, creates a sensation of a particular time of day, imbued with both tranquility and the latent energy of the gathering figures.

A group of individuals is depicted near the edge of the water, shrouded by shadows and illuminated intermittently by what appears to be a fire. The flames cast a glow on their forms, offering a stark contrast to the surrounding darkness. Above them, a tree reaches into the sky, its form almost blending with the obscure backdrop of foliage and the distant treeline, capturing the essence of nature’s wild and untamed character.

The brushwork is indicative of Gauguin’s Post-Impressionistic approach—loose, expressive, and yet deliberate—allowing the viewer to sense the movement and energy of the scene. The ethereal interaction of light and color imparts an emotional resonance, suggesting themes of comfort in companionship or perhaps contemplation in the presence of the natural world. The landscape and human figures coexist in a harmonious balance, evoking a narrative open to interpretation by those who stand before it.

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