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Paul Gauguin: Vision after the sermon

Paul Gauguin 1848 – 1903

Vision after the sermon

oil on canvas (73 × 92 cm) — 1888 Museum National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

This work is linked to Genesis 32:24

Tags: Jacob

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The passage about Jacob wrestling with the angel is often interpreted as the hard struggle some have with faith. Jacob had to wrestle the angel all night long. It wasn't until sunrise that the angel gave up and blessed Jacob.

Gauguin here shows the struggle against a feverish red background. In the foreground he put a group of Breton women, who according to the title had just attended a sermon.

In 1888 Gauguin spent much time in the coastal village of Port-Aven in Brittany, together with many other artists. Together with the painter Émile Bernard he developed a style called cloisonism. The name refers to the compartments (cloisons) separated by metal wires used in the creation of enamel objects. The painters used thin dark lines to draw contours around more or less monochrome fields.

This work is often considered as Gauguin's definite departure from the naturalism that dominated impressionism. He used strong colours, almost without gradients, contrary to what had been the tradition since the Renaissance. He also ignored the rules of perspective. The figures on the foreground are too large in relation to Jacob and the Angel. They also almost block the view on the wrestlers, who according to tradition should have been the central elements in the composition. No wonder that the church of Pont-Aven rejected the work when Gauguin offered it...

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Title: Paul Gauguin: Vision after the sermon
Author / citation: here
First published: 27 September 2005
Last modified: 17 January 2011