Pastorales Martiniques [Pastoral in Martinique]
32.2 cm x 47.8 cm (12 11/16 in. x 18 13/16 in.)
(Paris, France, 1848 - 1903, Atuona, French Polynesia)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
Paul Gauguin based this 1889 print on drawings he made during his 1887 visit to Martinique, but it reflects Gauguin’s “Synthetist” stylistic breakthrough in the intervening year. In "The Vision after the Sermon: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel" (1888), Gauguin deploys distortions of color, scale, and form—along with flattened space and thick outlines informed by Japanese printmaking—to represent a religious vision shared by a group of Breton peasants. "Pastoral in Martinique" also presents simplified, clearly delineated forms, with tonal variety created by the graininess of the zinc plate, patterning, and different washes.
Gauguin and other modern artists drew on idealized notions of “primitive” cultures as artistic stimuli and alternatives to a corrupt, materialistic Western culture. The supposed purity of these people and art forms was, however, a projection based on ignorance or misunderstanding of other cultures and their art works’ original contexts, grounded in a colonialist viewpoint.