Breton village under snow

Paul Gauguin • Painting, 1894, 62×87 cm
Digital copy: 536.3 kB
1800 × 1311 px • JPEG
49.5 × 35.3 cm • 92 dpi
30.5 × 22.2 cm • 150 dpi
15.2 × 11.1 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape
Style of art: Post-Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1894
Size: 62×87 cm
Artwork in selections: 22 selections
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Description of the artwork «Breton village under snow»

In August 1893, Gauguin left Tahiti and returned to France. He arrived at Marseille completely empty, the artist did not even have enough money to get to Paris. Gauguin was saved by his friend and student, Paul Sérusier, who sent him 250 francs. In November, at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, Gauguin arranged an exhibition and sale of his paintings, mainly on Tahitian subjects. It was a complete disaster: the artist, contrary to his expectations, received neither recognition nor money.

In the middle of spring 1894, he again travelled to Brittany in search of inspiration and a simpler, cheaper life. At this time, he created his Breton Village under Snow painting. Researchers cannot agree on whether this landscape was taken entirely from the artist’s imagination, or it was painted from nature. Gauguin arrived in Brittany in April, and in November he returned to Paris again, so he might not have found snow there. This painting was discovered on an easel in the artist’s studio in Papeete after his death. It contained no date or signature, and it is assumed that Gauguin finished work on the painting in Tahiti.

The Breton Village under Snow demonstrates the influence of the Impressionists, who depicted snow landscapes in different lighting and in different weather conditions, capturing changes and nuances. But unlike them, Gauguin actually deprived this snow-covered village of life. We see neither people nor animals here. X-ray studies of the painting confirmed that an animal was initially depicted in the foreground on the left side of the canvas, and a human figure on the right, but later the artist painted them over. The absence of any living creatures, and the heavy contours of houses hidden under a thick layer of snow, evoke a feeling of desperate abandonment and an endless barren winter.

In his book, “The Life of Gauguin”, Henri Perruchot told a funny story about this painting. Although the story itself took place after the death of the artist. Gauguin died in May 1903, and on 2 September, there was a sale of the property and works, which surrounded him at the moment of his death. Marine doctor Victor Segalan bought seven paintings by Gauguin for eighty-five francs, among them was the Self-portrait (Near Golgotha) and Breton Village under Snow, which the appraiser showed upside down, and therefore gave it an unexpected name — Niagara Falls.

Written by Yevgheniia Sidelnikova