Farm at Pouldu

Our image of Gauguin the theoretician sometimes obscures our response to Gauguin the painter. For besides being a man of flat statements and uncompromising generalizations, Gauguin was also a craftsman. When his mood permitted he could observe and record with sympathy and sensitivity.

In this picture the programmatic aspects of "synthetism" have receded without disappearing. The bright colors, the enclosed forms, the clearly divided areas are still present. But they are now mixed, as it were, with the Impressionism Gauguin had, during the two years before, so sharply rejected. Now without abandoning his theoretical premises, he has softened them. He has permitted himself to see the variations of hue and texture on the stone walls, had adapted his brush stroke to the surface, rocks or grass, thatch or bushes, he is rendering; has allowed the sky to blur the distant trees into a fuzzy, light-eaten form. Perhaps Arles and Cézanne play their part here too: the simple well-ordered structure of the space, the horizontal planes of grass and road and courtyard, carefully separated by vertical divisions that recede with a clarified perspective unusual for Gauguin; the emphasis upon rectangular arrangements; the consciousness of limited cubic space almost as solid as the forms that define it -- all these, are reminiscent of the master of Aix. The costume of the woman at the well, the steep thatched roofs, a poverty of vegetation, these tell us this is Brittany; and yet somehow there is here a classic calm that recalls the South.

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