Seascape in Brittany

In June 1886, Gauguin exhibited in the last group exhibition of the Impressionists. At the end of the month, after arranging for his son Clovis to stay at a boarding school in the south Paris suburb of Antony, he left on his first trip to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he stayed until the middle of November. This picture was painted on the coast near the mouth of the Aven River.

Monet did not take part in this last of the Impressionist exhibitions, among other reasons because he did not like either Gauguin or his art. But it is clear how much Gauguin's painting owes to the older master in subject, in surface, in approach. During 1886 Monet worked both at Etretat on the Norman coast, rendering the effects of the sun on the white chalk cliffs, and at Belle-Isle, off Brittany, where the rocks are darker. Gauguin's painting has more contrast within it than Monet's atmospheric studies, it is somber instead of bright; by including a figure and animals he increases the scale of the scene and gives it a touch of genre. Characteristically, his conception has lost something of the Impressionist esthetic detachment and gained something wild and elemental. The technique, however, is the technique of the divided brush stroke, and there is no doubt that this is a picture painted directly from the motif. Over all there is the play of light on the surface of objects. Only the silhouette of the peasant woman suggests the flattened outlines of a future style.

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