Still Life with Ham

This small and simple painting is one of the most direct of Gauguin's canvases. It is obviously carefully arranged: the placing of the table, with one edge free, the other slightly hidden beyond the frame of the picture, and of the bands of the wallpaper, attest to a thoroughly worked-out composition. Yet the' table, with its platter, scattered onions, and glass of wine, have apparently been come upon casually and seized and set down at a glance.

Most striking is the combination of volume and pattern, the table top, and the objects on it viewed from above, and so seen in depth. But the wall behind is altogether vertical. It brings the eye up short and the strong vertical stripes, close to the eye, contradict the space suggested by the still life in the foreground. But if actual space is denied, immense abstract space is at once implied; for the red beads of the wallpaper, continuing into space above and below, seem to detach themselves from the yellow surface to which (in reality) they belong, and the solid wall is transformed by its own color and by its contrast, into a luminous, intangible space. Thus, without Cubism's devices, Gauguin has made a picture, which like those of that later style, penetrates solidity, and hovers between the real and the unreal.

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