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An image of Breton women at a fence by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin

(France 07 Jun 1848 – 08 May 1903)

Breton women at a fence
Alternative title:
Bretonnes à la barrière
Media category
Materials used
lithograph on yellow paper
Guerin 4, from the first edition of between 30 and 50 impressions

16.0 x 21.5 cm image; 48.3 x 63.2 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed l.l. sheet, black ink [printed] "P Gauguin". Not dated.
Purchased 1976
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Gauguin's quest for the primitive pre-ceded his ill-fated trips to Martinique and Tahiti. As a follower of Pissarro and Cezanne in his Paris years, as a colleague of van Gogh in Arles soon after, and then as co-instigator with Emile Bernard of the Pont-Aven School, he perfected a primitivising technique that could be applied equally to a Breton pastoral or a Polynesian nude. This print - one of a group of ten zincographs on distinctive yellow paper known collectively as the 'Volpini suite' - depicts two women in the regional dress of Brittany. Their characteristic wimples animate innumerable compositions of the period by this and other artists. Though a novice to the lithographic medium, Gauguin proved instantly a master. In this plate the unpredictable undulations of line and Japoniste abbreviations of form are disruptive, preventing an easy assimilation by the eye. No single element is represented whole. Instead, the image is constructed from peek-a-boo fragments that cohere through opposition rather than accord. The farmyard subject is effectively lost in the process.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.

Bibliography (5)

Renée Free, Forest and field: from Claude to the Barbizon School, Sydney, 1995, 8.

Renée Free, Fin de Siècle, Sydney, Jan 1994.

Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 140 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 78-92, Sydney, 1999, 83 (illus.).

Terence Maloon, Paths to abstraction 1867-1917, Sydney, 2010, 149 (illus.).

Exhibition history (4)

Fin de Siècle: posters prints drawings from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Jan 1994–13 Mar 1994

Forest and field: from Claude to the Barbizon School, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 14 Jul 1995–17 Sep 1995

Paths to abstraction 1867-1917, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Jun 2010–19 Sep 2010

European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014

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