The Ham (1889; France) by Paul Gauguin

The Ham - Paul Gauguin - 1889; France

Artwork Information

TitleThe Ham
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1889; France
Dimensions50 x 58 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationPhilips Collection, Washington, DC, US

About The Ham

The artwork entitled “The Ham,” created by Paul Gauguin in 1889, is an exemplar of the Post-Impressionist movement. Gauguin applied oil paints on canvas to produce this still life composition, which measures 50 by 58 centimeters. Through its style and subject matter, the work reflects a departure from the naturalist conventions of Impressionism towards a more symbolist approach characteristic of Post-Impressionism. The artwork is housed in the Philips Collection, located in Washington, DC, USA.

In “The Ham,” Gauguin presents a table adorned with a vividly rendered piece of ham, positioned centrally on a plate. The ham’s rich, deep hues of reds and browns stand in contrast to the muted tones of the plate and the table. Accompanying the ham are sliced pieces of onion, strewn casually about the plate. To one side of the composition, a dark-tinted glass of what can be presumed to be red wine offers a visual and thematic counterpoint to the rounded forms of the onions and the meat’s bulk. The background, bathed in a warm golden yellow, is sparsely detailed, with vertical beads or some form of decoration partially framing the scene. Gauguin’s signature can be observed towards the lower right corner of the artwork.

The choice of subject matter and the interaction of color and form in this painting typify the Post-Impressionist movement’s interest in evoking more than the mere appearance of things, aiming to capture the subjective experience of the artist and to express a deeper symbolic significance. Gauguin’s bold colors and the simplification of forms would later influence many artists and help shape the direction of modern art.

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