Friday, February 23, 2007

At the Pond (1887)

Gauguin left Brittany in the autumn of 1886. He exhibited nineteen paintings at the Impressionist's Salon, but these symbolic dreamlike creations, which he considered profound, were merely regarded as pretentious.

Vibrant scenes of daily life by the likes of Monet and Degas were all the rage. Even when symbolism was warmly received, the critics preferred familiar themes such as the lazy Sunday afternoon on the banks of the Seine portrayed by Georges Seurat in his monumental picture: "Ile de la Grande Jatte". By contrast, Gauguin's use of extensive and largely flat blocks of colour was considered clumsy, even backward. His skill as a draftsman was also criticised.

Desperate for money, Gauguin travelled to Panama. He hoped to profit from the boom sparked by the construction of the canal. However, both he and his travelling companion, Charles Laval, an admirer of Gauguin from his Pont-Aven days, had to work as labourers until they could pay for their passage to the French colony of Martinique.

Gauguin painted "At the Pond" during his stay in Martinique. He uses several bright colours juxtaposed by numerous brushstrokes in a typically impressionist fashion. However, the principal features of this picture, i.e. the pond, the greenery, and the tree in the foreground, are all distinctly separate elements. The composition is thus abruptly divided between several constituent parts whose various colours create a contrasting pattern.

The dreamlike effect thus created is mirrored by the calm dignity of the abstract figures in the foreground. As is often the case with Gauguin, he does not merely paint a picture but also implies a deeper psychological meaning.

Image Source: The Yorck Project

No comments: