The Hayricks

This picture was painted only a few months before Monet began his famous series of Haystacks. Comparison between them shows the differences between late Impressionism and the new style Gauguin has now made his own. The "synthetism" of the two previous years, once a pervading programmatic principle of composition, has been absorbed and subdued, used naked, so to speak, only where it is called for, as in the lower right-hand corner, elsewhere modified and softened, as in passages of the upper left.

There is here a beautiful balance of elements: decorative pattern and deep space; curved forms and straight lines; outline in some areas, blended edges in others. The red curves of the foreground, with their strong continuous contours and separation of areas, contrast with the spotted hues and lively stippled effect of the flowering garden beyond, and these in turn give way to the linear alternation of the furrowed field. Only after some time does one realize the unity within the diversity of the whole foreground the similar abstract quality of the three different treatments, in contrast to the more conventional handling of the background. The figure of the peasant woman has a double function: it gives scale to the whole view, particularly the breadth and depth of the distant fields, and it is symbolic of the intense relation of the peasant to his land, the peasant who has created the rhythmic structure the painter reveals.

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